Falcon Heavy Static Fire Test Successful, Launch "In a Week or So"

The Falcon Heavy a beefed-up version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket could launch by the end of January

SpaceX performed a state fire test on its Falcon Heavy rocket Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center.

In a static fire test, the rocket is loaded with fuel and the engines are ignited, but the hold-down clamps that attach the rocket to the launch pad are not released, so the rocket stays in place. The inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy is a demo mission without a paying customer, with photos released by SpaceX showing a Tesla Roadster being encapsulated in the rocket's payload fairing to substantiate Elon Musk's statement the rocket would carry his vehicle beyond Mars.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk tweeted: "Falcon Heavy hold-down firing this morning was good". Musk's company is launching a red Tesla Roadster blasting the song "Space Oddity" out into the solar system.

Musk has also warned that the rocket could fail and explode.

First announced in 2011, the Falcon Heavy faced a few delays and rocket failures over the years.

If the launch goes as well as the static test, the Falcon Heavy's second stage will carry the vehicle into a Mars-adjacent orbit. "I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage".

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Musk has said the payload "will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent".

Some wonder how much business exists for a rocket as big as the Heavy. "It also impacts critical missions for our customers, including important worldwide allies scheduled to launch shortly from Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base, as well as upcoming missions this spring to resupply the global Space Station".

An artist's illustration of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit.

That approach allowed SpaceX to design a heavy-lift rocket largely by rearranging the same pieces. Falcon Heavy is capable of putting up to a 140,660-pound payload into low-earth orbit, or 58,860 pounds into a geostationary transfer orbit. Musk said the first Falcon Heavy's engines will be throttled to 92 percent of full power.

Another tricky aspect is the large number of rocket engines. The engines created a plume of exhaust, outputting 5.1 million pounds of thrust - that's about 1.7 million pounds from each of the rocket's three Falcon 9 cores.

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