SpaceX Falcon Heavy success could kill Space Launch System

Doug Carpenter
January 30, 2018

SpaceX teams have fueled the 230-foot-tall Falcon Heavy rocket at pad 39A at least twice ahead of the static test fire, which is essentially a test before the test. Engineers will examine data from the 12-second firing of the rocket's 27 Merlin main engines before giving the all clear to launch on its premiere mission.

"Aiming for first flight of Falcon Heavy on Feb 6 from Apollo launchpad 39A at Cape Kennedy".

However, Musk has often said that Falcon Heavy could fail - as in, explode. Musk has said the Falcon Heavy will launch his own cherry-red Tesla Roadster into space.

The company unveiled the Falcon Heavy rocket in December.

The Falcon Heavy's first passenger will be Musk's own red sports auto.

The Falcon Heavy is so-named for its ability to launch larger payloads than SpaceX has been able to previously. At the time, he predicted the maiden launch might occur in 2013, or perhaps even late 2012.

"It's one of those things that sounded easy", Musk said during a press conference after a Falcon 9 launch on March 30, 2017.

During a July 2017 spaceflight conference, Musk added: "We were pretty naive about that".

The Falcon Heavy, which is three times more powerful than the company's current flagship spacecraft, the Falcon 9, will lift off from Launch Pad 39A, the same pad use for NASA's launching of Apollo missions and space shuttle flights. "It should really be called the Falcon-27". It is likely that the main objective of Falcon Heavy's extended static fire was to ensure that SpaceX had developed a safe and functional method of igniting all 27 engines without damaging itself, a real risk from the torque of each engine's turbopump operating in the same orientation.

If all goes as planned, Musk's Roadster will wind up in a long, elliptical orbit around the sun, stretching as far out as the orbit of Mars.

The tech billionaire has said the rocket will carry a red Tesla Roadster into space, eventually to a Mars orbit, where it should remain "for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent". This makes the rocket really "heavy".

Musk has not quantified exactly what the risk of failure is for Falcon Heavy, but if you want to see what happens, SpaceX will likely host a live webcast of the launch on its YouTube channel. The rocket is finally launching after nearly five years of delay. Generally rocket launch dates aren't set in stone as there are many variables that can affect liftoff.

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