SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Gives Date for Falcon Heavy Test Launch

by Monica Hunter-Hart
YouTube user: SpaceX

In a tweet on Thursday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the test launch of the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket — which has a first stage three times bigger than that of the reusable Falcon 9, which resupplied the International Space Station on Saturday — could happen as soon as September.

“All Falcon Heavy cores should be at the Cape in two to three months, so launch should happen a month after that,” he wrote.

By that estimate, the rocket cores could be finished between mid-August and mid-September; a month beyond that puts the launch somewhere between September and October. Let’s hope for September.

Last we’d heard, Musk planned to launch Falcon Heavy in late summer. Apparently that timeline is no longer in the cards, but it was a bit overly optimistic, anyway.

SpaceX declares that the Falcon Heavy will be “the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two” upon launch. Its first stage contains three Falcon 9 rocket cores, each of which has nine Merlin engines. Falcon Heavy will run on 27 engines altogether, then, which gives it a liftoff thrust force of 5 million pounds.

That means that the rocket can “lift the equivalent of a fully loaded 737 jetliner — complete with passengers, luggage and fuel — to orbit.” And, indeed, SpaceX made it clear from the beginning that it wants to use the Falcon Heavy to bring humans into space, and to the moon and Mars, specifically.

A SpaceX promotional image of the Falcon Heavy

YouTube user: SpaceX

Besides preparing the rocket cores, SpaceX still needs to repair its damaged SLC-40 launch pad before Falcon Heavy can take off. Musk didn’t mention anything about how this process is going, but if he’s confident about launching a month after the cores are completed, we can assume that the company is likely on top of it.

SpaceX completed a successful static fire test (a step toward this upcoming full test) of the Falcon Heavy on May 9.

SpaceX has quite an impressive schedule lined up before the Falcon Heavy test launch, including another Falcon 9 launch that will deliver a communications satellite on June 17.

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