Elon Musk’s SpaceX has already rolled its next rocket out to a launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a fit test of the vehicle and its many components. And the Falcon Heavy surely needed one due to its massive size and three-booster assembly. Now its time for a different kind of test at legendary pad 39A––where Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong lifted off to walk on the moon.
It’s time to fire up the beast of a rocket and see if it roars before it can fly.
The vehicle that Musk touts will be the most powerful in the world when it flies, it made up of three of the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket boosters. The central booster is brand new, while the side boosters flew previous missions, being recovered and refurbished.
When SpaceX ultimately launches the much-anticipated Falcon Heavy maiden or “demo” flight as the company calls it, they will attempt to recover all three boosters. The two flight-proven side boosters will be flown back to Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 and the newly completed Landing Zone 2 about 8 minutes after launch––at the same time!
The central core booster that will continue to push the payload toward its destination after the side boosters detach, will be flown back to sea for a landing on SpaceX’s autonomous drone ship, the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’.
But before that, SpaceX must perform a hold-down fire of the Falcon Heavy’s 27 Merlin engines that will generate upwards of 5 million pounds of thrust. Musk called the operation complex and a delay today is beginning to show that. SpaceX originally slated a 6-hour window opening at 1PM on Wednesday, January 10th for the test but it has been moved to Thursday with the same window. SpaceX will fire the Falcon Heavy’s engines for 12 seconds according to a notice issued to staffers at Kennedy Space Center.
SpaceX will demonstrate the Falcon Heavy’s capability with the launch of Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster, an electric sportscar made by Musk’s other, more-grounded transportation company. The destination? an elliptical Mars orbit––that means the car will orbit in Mars path for “a billion years” Musk claims. The Roadster has already been loaded into the Falcon Heavy’s payload fairing that houses satellites and other spacecraft.
A solid Falcon Heavy launch date will be established when the static-fire is completed successfully and SpaceX is happy with the test’s data. Elon Musk says they want to launch the new heavy-lift rocket at the end of the month.
Image Credits: SpaceX