The launch date of SpaceX’s latest ‘Falcon Heavy’ rocket has been delayed. Frequently promised for 2017, that expectation has now formally been delayed into the New Year.
However, SpaceX (and Tesla electric car) founder Elon Musk says he wants to use the debut flight to launch his own “midnight cherry red” Tesla Roadster into space.
Musk Tweeted on December 1st that he would pre-set the car’s sound system to be playing David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ as his rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral. His Tweet also cautioned that the cart would be in space for a billion years or so “if it doesn’t blow up on ascent”.
Unconfirmed rumours suggest that the launch will be sooner than later in the year, although SpaceX founder Elon Musk stressed earlier this year not to expect perfection in this debut flight.
Launching something into orbit really is ‘rocket science’ and such activity is often affected by technology challenges each of which have to be tested and the road to launch near-perfection is littered with the history of lost rockets, and sometimes their cargo.
SpaceX president/COO Gwynne Shotwell went on the record last week saying (to Aviation Week magazine) that there will be a static test-firing of the giant rocket’s engines in December, and that the launch will follow in January 2018 at the earliest.
The rocket, which uses 27 Merlin engines (in three blocks of 9 engines), will generate 5 million pounds of thrust. The concept was first announced in 2011 and with a launch date of 2013. That date has slipped, not least because of early problems with the Falcon 9’s engine cluster, and launch failures. Musk told conference delegates in July that perhaps his company was being a bit too ambitious.