SpaceX delays launch of Falcon Heavy to 2018

World's most powerful rocket now expected to liftoff in January.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Dec 05, 2017
After a string of delays, SpaceX has postponed the un-crewed launch of its new Falcon Heavy rocket to sometime in January 2018.

The company still hopes to conduct a static fire test of the rocket in December, the first ever of the Falcon Heavy's 27 Merlin engines.

Initially scheduled for late 2016, the launch, which will be from Cape Canaveral, was postponed to last summer, then postponed again to November. One cause of the delays involved transporting the three Falcon 9 cores that compose the new rocket to the launch site.

According to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell as reported in Aviation Week, "We wanted to fly Heavy this year. We should be able to static fire this year and fly a couple of weeks right after that."

The static fire test will mark the first time all 27 Merlin engines will be fired simultaneously.

CEO Elon Musk has admitted that preparing the new rocket for launch has proven much more difficult than anticipated and even acknowledged the Falcon Heavy may not achieve orbit in its first flight.

"There's a lot that can go wrong there," Musk said at the ISS R&D conference in July. "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."

A video of the rocket being tested was posted on SpaceX's website in September. The testing was conducted in McGregor, Texas, where the video showed successful firing of the rocket's first stage cores.

While the first stage is composed of 27 engines in three cores, the second stage is the same one used on the Falcon 9. Together, they will give the rocket more than five million pounds of thrust.

SpaceX has ambitious plans for the Falcon Heavy, including the transport of humans beyond low-Earth orbit and possibly to Mars.

The US Air Force, the company Inmarsat, and several other private companies already have Falcon Heavy launches listed on SpaceX's launch manifest website.

Each launch of the rocket will cost $90 million.

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