SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket could launch as early as next week, after a successful ‘static fire’ test. The rocket, which is the most powerful lift vehicle ever created, comprises 27 Merlin engines that burst into life yesterday at 12.30pm ET at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The 12-second blast paves the way for a full-fledged launch as early as next week, weather and political elements permitting.
The project, headed by Tesla chief Elon Musk, has suffered a number of delays since the tech billionaire announced the Falcon Heavy in 2011. Extreme weather and technical hitches had already put back the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, carrying its Zuma spacecraft and a secret payload.
The rocket’s latest firing was also postponed over the US government shutdown: Kennedy Space Center requires US Air Force support that was unavailable until a Senate deadlock was broken two days ago.
Now SpaceX has been given an all-clear for takeoff. A cherry-red colored Tesla Roadster, carried by the Falcon Heavy, is set to head towards a Mars elliptical orbit where according to Musk it will play David Bowie’s Space Oddity “on a billion year” voyage.
But Musk has tempered this week’s news by downplaying the Falcon Heavy’s chances of success. “I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage,” he told an audience in Washington D.C. last year.
“I would consider even that a win, to be honest.”