00:51 GMT19 May 2021
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    Dr Hugh Hunt, Reader in Engineering Dynamics & Vibration at the University of Cambridge, has expressed his views on the possibility of space launches after the successful launch of Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy rocket.

    Sputnik: Before I talk specifically about what separates SpaceX and Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy rocket from other rockets used in; how significant is this launch we witnessed earlier?

    Hugh Hunt: I think it's very significant. I think if we're traveling to places in spaces like Mars we need to find a way of launching from say the Moon. If we can fly to the Moon, land on the Moon and then fly from there to Mars, then that gives us a staging post.

    READ MORE: SpaceX Launches Falcon Heavy Rocket, the Most Powerful in the World (VIDEOS)

    Sputnik: Speaking specifically about this new type of rocket used by Musk… What are the key differences and developments featured in this rocket compared to older models of rockets like the Saturn V?

    Hugh Hunt: It's interesting the fuels are used are very similar to other rockets. There's only a certain amount of thrust you can get from a rocket using rocket fuel but the key thing is the reusability of the boosters, of the things that contain the fuel. It would be a bit like saying every time you fuel your car, you'd buy a new petrol tank and throw away the old one away and the new one has petrol in it. If you could keep the old one that would be quite useful — and that's these boosters essentially are.

    Sputnik: Finally the idea of space exploration is one that raises many eyebrows for a variety of reasons. For years, Virgin's Richard Branson has been investing heavily in the possibilities of developing commercial spaceflights. Following the launch of the Falcon Heavy, could this be the start of a commercial space race between companies?

    Hugh Hunt: There have been races in all sorts of things e.g. Ford vs BMW. Technology is accelerated when there is competition and it's very good that there's competition in the industry of space exploration. If we are going to make progress then this competition is excellent.

    The idea of reusable spacecraft is very important as it helps keep the cost down. The largest component, the largest weight is fuel. The fuel takes being reusable in this SpaceX program is very important but it means being able to put a fuel depo in space, say on the moon. These kinds of technological developments are going to be essential if we're going to make our way to Mars and beyond.

    Things are happening very quickly. The launch yesterday, the most remarkable bit, was when we saw the two booster rockets landing side by side. This was unthinkable five years ago — five years from now, who knows what we'll be seeing.

    The views and opinions expressed by Hugh Hunt are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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