SpaceX wowed us all yesterday with a test firing of its new Falcon Heavy rocket, which will become the most powerful modern rocket after its launch, expected in February.
The rocket roared to life yesterday, January 24, at 12.30pm EST at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral in Florida. This was a practice firing of the engines, known as a static fire, with the rocket clamped down.
In a post on Twitter, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said we could expect the actual launch “in a week or so”. This has been greatly anticipated for a good few years. This static fire test shows that we’re on the brink of it happening.
“Falcon Heavy hold-down firing this morning was good,” said Musk. “Generated quite a thunderhead of steam.”
The rocket's 27 Merlin 1D engines fired with about 5 million pounds of thrust, fuelled with kerosene and liquid oxygen, running for more than 10 seconds. We were then treated to a huge cloud of exhaust and steam from the test, which you can watch below.
This will be the biggest rocket launched from the US since the Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the Moon, measuring 230 feet (70 meters) tall. It will become the most powerful rocket in operation today, eclipsing the Delta IV Heavy.
“This was the most thrust fired at the pad since Space Shuttle Atlantis conducted the final flight of the Shuttle Program in July of 2011,” noted Spaceflight Insider. “The 10-second test provided just enough time for SpaceX to verify that it could fire all 27 engines safely without lifting off.”
On this inaugural launch the rocket will be taking Musk’s own Tesla Roadster car to Mars orbit. With a lifting capacity of up to 64,000 kilograms (140,000 pounds), the Falcon Heavy could enable missions to the Moon and, eventually, Mars. SpaceX currently has plans to conduct lunar missions, saying they will send two paying customers around the Moon at some point in the near-future.
The actual launch of the rocket itself will be exciting not just for its immense power. The rocket comprises three “cores”, essentially three Falcon 9s stacked together, and the company will attempt to land all three back on Earth.
Two of the cores will perform landings at landing pads at Cape Canaveral. A third will land on one of SpaceX’s floating barges. Musk, though, has noted previously there is a chance the rocket will explode as it is so complex.
Either way, it’s going to be a pretty amazing event, so make sure you check it out either in person in Florida, or at least online on a live stream in other places around the world.