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Tesla rockets into space

Far out: SpaceX released this image of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster with Starman at the wheel in space.

Sky is the limit for Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster in pioneering space shot

7 Feb 2018

A CHERRY red Tesla Roadster is hurtling through space to orbit the sun near Mars for perhaps a billion years after the successful maiden test launch of Tesla founder Elon Musk’s huge SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida today.

The electric-powered sportscar – usually with a maximum range of 393km – became the first road-registerable series-production car in space in a flight of fancy by Mr Musk who knows a marketing opportunity when he sees one.

The car – built in 2010 and said to be from Mr Musk’s personal collection – allegedly played David Bowie’s Life on Mars on its sound system and carried a copy of the 1979 novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the glovebox as it set off on its multi-million-kilometre journey at more than 10,000km/h.

Of course, the Tesla with a space-suit-clad dummy called Starman at the wheel is not the first motor vehicle in the space – that honour goes to NASA’s Lunar Rover that provided transport for Apollo astronauts on the moon in the 1970s.

Like Tesla’s Roadster, it was an all-electric open-top car.

Using 27 Merlin rocket engines from SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 9 rocket with the collective thrust of 18 Boeing 747s, the Falcon Heavy lifted off from the same Cape Canaveral launch pad as the historic Apollo 11 in 1969.

It becomes the most powerful current rocket, only shaded by NASA’s Saturn V that lifted the Apollo space missions and Space Lab into the sky decades ago.

The two re-useable booster rockets – fixed to the side of the main rocket – later successfully landed back on earth intact in SpaceX’s signature party trick. In the only glitch for the launch, the main central rocket was ditched at sea when the planned landing on a platform went haywire.

For Mr Musk, it was a nail-biting experience. "I had an image of a giant explosion on the pad with a wheel bouncing down the road and the Tesla logo landing somewhere,” he told reporters after the launch.

According to the SpaceX website, the Falcon Heavy can hurl a payload of up to 6.38 tonnes – three times that of other existing rockets – for just $US90 million ($A114m) – not much more than a price of a top-of-the-line Boeing 737.

According to American reports, NASA’s alternative rocket that is yet to fly would cost about $1 billion a flight.

The Tesla Roadster – based on the British Lotus Elise – went out of production in 2012.

An all-new model is expected in 2020. Tesla says the new model will have 10,000Nm of torque and be capable of knocking over the zero-to-60mph (97km/h) sprint in 1.9 seconds.

The target driving range is 1000km and top speed is expected to be more than 400km/h.

While Mr Musk’s other projects appear to be flying, his Tesla Model 3 production car is struggling to get to market due to factory hold-ups.

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