Elon Musk’s Falcon ‘Heavy’ rocket will be launched on February 6th subject to the usual weather considerations. Musk has said that the maiden flight of the giant rocket will take place from Launch Pad 39A which was used for the historic Apollo moon missions, and more recently for NASA’s Space Shuttle flights.
The flight’s objectives are complicated. First, there’s the launch itself: The rocket’s 27 engines are contained in three clusters of nine each, and the flight – ideally – will see each of the 27 engines fired simultaneously. There is a small amount of lift capacity built into the overall thrust demands should one engine fail, for example.
Musk has stressed that there’s quite a lot of potential for failure on this maiden flight, which is why it is not carrying a conventional cargo (just his favourite cherry red Tesla Roadster sports car). “I guarantee it’s going to be exciting,” he says. “Getting it off the [launch] pad without damage would be a win,” he adds.
The Falcon Heavy had its important engine firing tests on January 24th. All worked as planned.
Musk then wants to return each of the three engine clusters back to Earth.
If successful, the rocket (and Musk’s car) will be lifted into a heliocentric orbit that will eventually see the car drift by the planet Mars.
Follow up flights have paying customers, not least Arabsat 6A later this year.