Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster
Photograph of the black emptiness of space, with planet Earth partly in shadow in the background.  In the foreground is an open-top red convertible sports car, viewed from the front over the bonnet, with a driver wearing a human-shaped white-and-black spacesuit in the driving seat.
The Roadster in a parking orbit above Earth, prior to departing Earth's gravity well on a trans-Mars injection heliocentric orbit
Names SpaceX Roadster [1]
Starman [1]
Mission type Test flight
Operator SpaceX
COSPAR ID 2018-017A
no. 43205
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type 2008 Tesla Roadster used as a mass simulator, attached to the upper stage of a Falcon Heavy rocket
Manufacturer Tesla and SpaceX
Launch mass
  • ~1,300 kg (2,900 lb);
  • ~6,000 kg (13,000 lb) including rocket upper stage [2]
Start of mission
Launch date 20:45:00, February 6, 2018 (2018-02-06T20:45:00)
Rocket Falcon Heavy FH-001
Launch site Kennedy LC-39A
Orbital parameters
Reference system Heliocentric
Eccentricity 0.25575 [3]
Perihelion 0.98614 au [3]
Aphelion 1.6639 au [3]
Inclination 1.078° [3]
Period 1.525 year [3]
Epoch 1 May 2018

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car that served as the dummy payload for the Falcon Heavy test flight on February 6, 2018. A mannequin named Starman sits at the driving seat wearing a spacesuit. The 2008 Tesla Roadster car and Falcon Heavy rocket are both products of Elon Musk's companies, Tesla, Inc. and SpaceX respectively. This electric car was previously used by Musk for commuting, and it became the only consumer car sent into space.

Together with the rocket's second stage to which the car is attached, it is now an artificial object in heliocentric orbit. The boosts of the second stage gave the combination sufficient velocity to escape Earth's gravity and enter an elliptical heliocentric orbit that crosses the orbit of Mars. The orbit reaches a maximum distance from the Sun at aphelion of 1.66 astronomical units (au). [3] [4] During the early portion of its voyage, the combination sent live video back to Earth for slightly over four hours. [5]

The choice of this car as a dummy payload was variously interpreted as a marketing move for Tesla, an art object, or as contributing to space debris.

Background

Photograph of a parking space with the words "SpaceX" and "reserved".  The parking space contains a red convertible sports car with Californian license plate TSLA 10. On the rear of the vehicle are written the words "Tesla Roadster Sport".
Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster in a parking space outside SpaceX in 2010

In March 2017 Musk stated that the launch of the new Falcon Heavy vehicle was risky, so it would carry the "silliest thing we can imagine". [6] On December 1, 2017 he said that the payload would be his personal Roadster, [7] [8] subsequently verifying that he was not joking. [9] On December 22, Musk published pictures of the car taken before payload encapsulation.

Traditionally, concrete or steel blocks are used as ballast in risky test flights. SpaceX wanted to demonstrate that their new rocket could carry a payload as far as the orbit of Mars. They reportedly had offered NASA to carry a scientific payload, but these plans did not come to fruition. [10]

This Roadster became the first consumer car sent into space. [11] Three manned rovers were sent to space on the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions in the 1970s and these vehicles were left on the Moon. [12]