In chat, site moderator PearsonArtPhoto raised an interesting question after I'd pointed out that watching this launch could be disguised as watching "A car go faster than any car has gone before."

How long will it take the Tesla Roadster to beat the all time record for the fastest car? PearsonArtPhoto's question in chat

Popular Mechanics has written an article on it, but they only discuss how fast it will go at its top speed, and the speed at which it leaves the "Earth-Moon system". According to Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist and spaceflight expert Jonathan McDowell, who was in email correspondence with PM, the car will go several orders of magnitude faster.

"At separation, the Roadster will be going between 11.5 and 11.8 km/s relative to Earth," ... "This is 25,700 to 26,400 mph, so say about 26,000 mph give or take. It will slow down as it goes 'uphill' and departs the Earth-Moon system at about 7,400 to 9,500 mph—relative to the Earth."
Elon Musk's Roadster Will Break the Record for Fastest a Car Has Ever Traveled - Popular Mechanics

The current fastest road legal car is cited at being 277.9mph (447.2 kph), a record held by the Koenigsegg Agera RS and the car with the land speed record is the Thrust SSC, clocking in at 763.0 mph (1228 kph)

So how long will it take the Roadster to beat either of these cars?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Those cars had living people in them tho. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2018 at 18:07
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Starman is a person too! $\endgroup$
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 6, 2018 at 18:08
  • 28
    $\begingroup$ don't forget the moon rovers... $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Feb 6, 2018 at 18:29
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @JCRM Hahaha, yes! The Tesla will beat them eventually, but not until trans-Martian injection. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2018 at 18:41
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't the fastest car ever (if we don't count the moon rovers, which were not road licensed) prior to this be one that was transported in a high speed cargo plane? $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Feb 7, 2018 at 2:02

2 Answers 2


It'll take a hot minute.

According to the FlightClub.io simulation, the Falcon Heavy flight will be doing 138.7 m/s (496 km/h) at the 30 second mark, beating the Koenigsegg Agera RS.

It should hit 341.5 m/s (1228 km/h) at 59 seconds into the flight, exceeding the speed of the ThrustSSC.

It's been noted that the lunar rovers flown on the later Apollo flights exceeded that speed, probably reaching peak speed at translunar injection (~11km/s relative to Earth surface). The Falcon Heavy Tesla Roadster will outrun those when it does its trans-Martian injection burn.

As it happened, the times turned out pretty close. The Tesla hit 500 km/h at 27 seconds:

still from spacex launch broadcast showing Falcon Heavy at 27 seconds, 500 kph, 1.7 km altitude

and 1228 km/h at 66 seconds:

still from spacex launch broadcast showing Falcon Heavy at 1 minute 6 seconds, 1228 km/h, 10.4 km altitude

  • $\begingroup$ Seems like the real race would be between the Roadster and MSL/maybe either of the MERs, depending on your definition of "car." $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Feb 6, 2018 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @ErinAnne My definition of "car" requires a seat designed for a human. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2018 at 18:54
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Some may even say a car needs a road to transfer power from own engine to asphalt via tyres. $\endgroup$
    – user19132
    Feb 6, 2018 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I'm not saying it should get a land speed record. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2018 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ @qqjkztd No love for hovercars? :'( $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Feb 7, 2018 at 9:15

Apollo 17

The Tesla Roadster is now the fourth electric car launched into space. The previous three were the Lunar Roving Vehicle (The Moon Buggy) which was included on Apollo 15, 16 and 17.

The fastest speed attained by an operational vehicle is 35.74 km/h (22.2 mph) for the LRV on Apollo 17.

Apollo moon missions and the Falcon Heavy require a minimum speed of 25,000 mph to break out of earth's orbit. Whether the Falcon goes a few miles faster than Apollo is not important because the Tesla Roadster will not actually operate as a vehicle in space.

Good luck Starman.

Starman and Tesla


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