SpaceX finally sets maiden launch of Falcon Heavy: January
Image via SpaceX.

Falcon Heavy rocket at Kennedy Space Center, artist's rendering

After years of soft scheduling that has kept pushing its debut out into the future, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, is being prepared for its maiden launch from Kennedy Space Center in January.

The Falcon Heavy, essentially three Falcon 9 rocket boosters together, is designed to be the most powerful rocket the world has seen since NASA retired the Saturn V in 1973. The Falcon Heavy is designed for both heavy-payload Earth orbit missions and deep-space missions, capable of reaching the farthest depths of the solar system.

And like the Falcon 9 rocket, the Falcon Heavy was conceived as one day taking astronauts into space. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has proposed using it for the company’s privately-run mission to get astronauts to Mars.

SpaceX has not announced a specific date yet for the debut launch, which is being called a demonstration mission. But on Thursday the company announced the blast-off is being targeted for January. Should weather permit, the rocket’s ascent should be visible through most of the Florida peninsula.

The launch will come from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, which SpaceX has leased and rebuilt to accommodate its Falcon rocket line, including the Falcon Heavy. It’s the same launch pad that many of the Saturn Vs launched from between 1967 and 1973 carrying Apollo moon and Skylab missions.

The Falcon Heavy would produce more than 5 million pounds of thrust at lift-off. SpaceX says the Falcon Heavy will have the ability to lift 54 metric tons of payload into orbit, more than twice that of the Space Shuttle rocket system, and more than twice that of any other rocket in use today.

The Falcon Heavy’s claim to being the world’s most powerful rocket will hold until NASA completes its next big rocket, the Space Launch System, which also has seen its debut date drift in time through various delays. It’s now set for a 2020 debut, also from Kennedy Space Center, from the other launch pad of the twins, Launch Complex 39B.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


5 comments

  • asd

    December 14, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    *is designed to be the most powerful rocket the world has seen since the Soviets discontinued the Energia launcher in 1988*

  • JJ

    December 15, 2017 at 1:25 am

    Right. This coming January, it’ll be March. This coming March it’ll be “end of summer.” End of summer 2018 it’ll be “sometime before Christmas.” Christmas 2018 it’ll be January.

    These guys should just quit setting hard deadlines for untested hardware or simply join Virgin Galactic.

  • Steve

    December 15, 2017 at 7:08 am

    We will send a private company resupply mission to the ISS “…It’ll never work.” – it worked.
    We will land our boosters “…It’ll never work.” – it worked.
    We will reuse our boosters “…It’ll never work.” – it worked.
    We will launch a heavy lift rocket “…It’ll never work.” – hmmmm….maybe it will work.

    Elon M. is doing what the vast majority said couldn’t be done…and making a pile of money doing it. Rockets are inherently dangerous and sometimes they blow up.

    Adjusting the launch date is the smart thing to do instead of rushing a dangerous process for good press and then the rocket(s) goes boom…again.

    How many rockets did our country blow up in the early days? Many.
    Has SpaceX had rockets blow up on the pad or crash and burn? Yes.
    Did they cry and close up shop after realizing that doing thing differently just doesn’t work? No.
    I’m not an employee, investor or SpaceX fanboy but seeing someone step-up and make significant, genuine improvements to a 40+ year old industry and spur competition is good stuff. Their company is learning and improving and anyone that underestimates them will probably be wrong.

    Competition breeds improvement.

  • Dale Amon

    December 15, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    This is why we have to do a private sector and not a government sector space economy (not a program, a economy). An entrepreneurial company doesn’t give a rat’s behind about the self-important ramblings of non-entities. Politicians do. That is why we have stayed in LEO for 40 years and if not for entrepreneurs who simply tune out officious idiots, we’d stay there another 40 years. As far as I am concerned, if you have a complaint, go out and do better yourself. If you can’t, then just get out of the way.

  • Daniel

    December 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    @Dale Amon > “That is why we have stayed in LEO for 40 years”

    There were less than 200 active satellites in space when the last Apollo mission flew. Today there are 1500, and they are considerably larger and more capable. We have visited every major planet, two dwarf planets, half a dozen asteroids, and a couple of comets, and currently have two working rovers on Mars, one that is nuclear-powered.

    Looking only at human crew is misguided. The vast majority of people working in space industries are here on Earth, and that will continue to be true for some decades to come. I’m one of those people, please don’t forget us.

Comments are closed.


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