SpaceX successfully completes Falcon Heavy static fire test

Initial launch carrying Musk's car into orbit will be followed by two commercial launches this year.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Jan 28, 2018
SpaceX successfully completed the long-delayed static fire test of its Falcon Heavy rocket on Wednesday, January 24, at the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

Static fire tests are conducted on rockets to evaluate the performance of their engines before actual launch. During these tests, the engines are ignited to simulate a launch's first stage, but the rocket is held in place on the launchpad.

A reusable, super-heavy launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy is a variant of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and is designed to carry more than 119,000 pounds into orbit.

As the most powerful working rocket in the world, the Falcon Heavy is also designed to someday transport human astronauts to Mars.

Wednesday's firing of the engines began at 12:30 PM EST and lasted approximately 10 seconds.

While SpaceX did not release specific information about the test, such as how the 27 Merlin engines in the three boosters performed, CEO Elon Musk issued a public statement about an hour later indicating the effort was successful.

"Falcon Heavy hold-down firing this morning was good. Generated quite a thunderhead of steam. Launching in a week or so," Musk said.

The initial launch, delayed multiple times from its original 2013 date, will not carry a commercial payload. Instead, it will take Musk's sports car, a Tesla roadster, into space, flying it beyond the orbit of Mars.

Because the company plans to launch a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40 on January 30, the Falcon Heavy's inaugural launch is expected to occur sometime after that date.

At least two commercial Falcon Heavy launches are planned for this year, providing the initial launch succeeds. One will carry the Arabsat 6A communications satellite into orbit while the other is a Space Test Program 2 mission being conducted for the US Air Force.

Last February, SpaceX announced its intent to launch a crewed Dragon capsule on the Falcon Heavy with two astronauts on board by the end of 2018. The plan specified at the time was to take the astronauts on a circumlunar trajectory, flying past the far side of the Moon, then back to Earth, using the Moon's gravity to power the Dragon's return to Earth.

No new information has since been made public about that plan.

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