Elon Musk made it official on Saturday afternoon. The first flight of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will be on Tuesday, February 6 from launchpad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Musk shared the news in a tweet, noting that launchpad 39A has “easy viewing from the public causeway.”
On Friday, the rumored date cropped up on Twitter from space journalists but officials with SpaceX or NASA couldn’t confirm the date. As of Saturday, Inverse understands that no launch time has been announced as of yet.
When it launches, the Falcon Heavy will be the “most powerful rocket in the world,” say SpaceX officials. Its first stage is made up of a combined three Falcon 9 engine cores and 27 Merlin engines.
“With more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff — equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft at full power — Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two,” the company has said.
This past Wednesday, the rocket had its static fire test — the powering all of the engines of a rocket but not actually launching it — conducted as a precursor to the Falcon Heavy’s maiden voyage, which Musk said then would be in “a week or so,” on Twitter.
Here’s that static fire test:
Earlier this year, SpaceX shared impressive drone footage of the rocket system, which has been upright on the launchpad since late December.
So what will the launch look like? This animation from 2015 shows what SpaceX thinks the launch — and landing of three rocket boosters back on Earth — will look like:
If all goes as planned, and the rocket doesn’t blow up on the launch pad or during ascent, the three boosters will all land back on Earth. The center core will land on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You off the coast of Florida, and the two side boosters will land on pads at Cape Canaveral, Florida, near the launch site.
In July, Musk teased what we can expect for the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy, at the 2017 ISS R&D Conference in Washington, D.C. He had this wry line to sum up his feelings on the entire project: “Major pucker factor.” Here’s video of that moment:
“There’s, like, a lot that can go wrong there,” Musk said at the time. He encouraged people to come down to Florida to watch the launch, though. “It’s guaranteed to be exciting,” he said.
Musk reiterated those cautious — this-thing-might-explode — comments in early January in an same Instagram update: “Excitement on launch day guaranteed, one way or another.”
The new rocket has been a long time coming. Musk first announced the Falcon Heavy in April 2011 with a 2013 launch date. This date slipped after it became apparent that the company couldn’t strap three Falcon 9 rockets together and call it a day, with the Falcon Heavy’s development shifting into a far more complex affair. The approximate launch date was then moved to September 2017 and eventually to January and now to February 6, 2018.
Weirdly, the payload on this test mission will be Musk’s midnight cherry-colored Tesla Roadster:
Its stereo will be playing “Space Oddity” by David Bowie, and the car will be sent on an orbit around the Sun along Mars’ orbit. Anyone who thought Musk was joking was proven wrong with this photo of the car inside the payload fairing.
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