After months of delays, SpaceX is finally ready to showcase its most powerful rocket to date. The Falcon Heavy, originally scheduled to launch in earlier this summer, is finally expected to launch in late December.
According to NASA Spaceflight, SpaceX is looking between December 20th and the 31st for the debut. Could we be getting a shiny new rocket launch for Christmas?
Initially, the launch had been rescheduled for November but doubts arose due to the busy schedule of Kennedy Space Center's 39A launch site and repairs on the Space Launch Complex 40 launch pad's TEL at Cape Canaveral.
"Falcon Heavy is one of those things that at first it sounded easy," said Musk. "We’ll just take two first stages and use them as strap-on boosters. And like, actually no, this is crazy hard, and required a redesign of the center core, and a ton of additional hardware. It was actually shockingly difficult to go from a single core to a triple-core vehicle."
While we're anxiously awaiting the Falcon Heavy launch, it's important to note that its creator doesn't seem nearly as excited as SpaceX fans. According to Elon Musk, don't hold your breath and expect perfection from the Falcon Heavy's first go.
"There’s a real good chance that it does not make it to orbit. I hope it gets far enough away from the launch pad that it does not cause pad damage – I would consider that a win," the CEO said. SpaceX and Musk are no strangers to failures. In fact, Musk published a supercut of SpaceX's greatest failures not too long ago.
Unlike previous Falcon iterations, the Heavy is just so large that it makes testing a unique challenge for Musk's crew. As NASA Spaceflight points out, the Falcon Heavy will produce 5.13 million lbf at liftoff. That will only grow to 5.549 million lbf once it hits the atmosphere. Those stats will undoubtedly solidify its title as one of the world's most impressive rockets. However, all of that power has to come from somewhere (or in the Falcon Heavy's case, 27 somewheres). With 27 engines needing to be fully functioning to keep the craft alight for liftoff, testing has been its own challenge.
"Falcon Heavy’s going to be a great vehicle. [There] just isn’t a lot you can test on the ground," he said. You can listen to a bit more of his discussion about the Falcon Heavy in this very candid and honest interview below.
Ultimately, the Falcon Heavy will lift over 119,000 lbs (54 metric tons). That's double the payload of the Delta IV Heavy at only a third of its operational costs. Not only does the success of the new rocket line depend on this launch; SpaceX's mission to Mars also hinges on how well the Falcon Heavy performs. The rocket's capability to transport huge payloads plays a massive role in Musk's vision for getting to the Red Planet. At a conference several months ago, Musk mentioned he wanted the Falcon Heavy to carry the Crew Dragon spacecraft.