New top speed record for a car

Yesterday saw the historic launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket with the non-traditional payload of a Tesla Roadster. At the beginning of the week:

The fastest road car – Hennessey Venom GT with a top speed of 270+mph (434 kph).

The land speed record is currently just over 760 mph (1223 kph) by ThrustSSC.

Should note that this does not include cars that may have been dropped from planes reaching terminal velocity (order of ~100 mph / 160 kph) or those that have travelled on planes (~600 mph / 965 kph).

To put object into space and escape the gravity of Earth it must first overcome the escape velocity from the surface. Essentially this occurs when an objects kinetic energy becomes equal to the gravitational potential energy. For Earth this approximates to about 11.2 km/s. (40,300 kph). However, since a rocket will accelerate steadily the actual velocity required to escape Earth’s gravity is less due to the higher altitude. During launch the Tesla Roadster reached a maximum velocity just over 12 km/s, or 43,400 kph, setting a new record for the top speed of a car (even if it was not under it’s own power).

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Now in space the car will start it’s planned to journey to Mars to place it into a orbit around the red planet. Regardless of whether it actually makes it to Mars or not spacecraft typically travelling through the Solar System reach heliocentric velocities of approximately 10 – 40 km/s, which are the fastest velocity objects created by mankind to date. So not only will the little red Tesla travel faster than any car but also one of the fastest man mad objects in the universe.

starman live view falcon heavy spacex

It does a leave an interesting question for future space travel and technology. If the car remains in space for some time and is subsequently recovered, will it still work ? how will being in space affect a vehicle that was designed for terrestrial proposes? There may be some good science to come from what looked to be a fun exercise.

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