The next big step for private space firm SpaceX is the long-awaited Falcon Heavy launch platform. After years of planning and a handful of delays, the massive rocket is just a few weeks away from launch. Will SpaceX actually get the Falcon Heavy in the air on time? SpaceX founder Elon Musk has posted some photos of the nearly finished rocket that give us some hope. They show the three booster cores all linked up and ready for a payload.
According to Musk, the Falcon Heavy is on-location at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Like the regular Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy will launch from the famed launch pad 39A, the same facility used for the Apollo missions. First, they need to assemble the massive rocket, and it looks like things are progressing nicely.
The new images show the three Falcon 9 boosters linked together in the Falcon Heavy configuration. The center booster has additional structural reinforcement where the side boosters attach. This one is new, but the two side boosters for this launch have flown before. It demonstrates great confidence in its reusable technology that SpaceX would trust reflown parts on such an important launch.
The Falcon Heavy is designed to be mostly reusable, just like individual Falcon 9 rockets. Following the launch, all three cores can return to the surface for landing. However, the higher speed of Falcon Heavy launches could make landing much more difficult. The company isn’t even sure launches will be easy at first. Musk has noted repeatedly there is a “non-zero” chance that the Falcon Heavy will explode on its maiden voyage.
Based on Musk’s photos, all the rocket is missing is the payload. SpaceX isn’t going to put anything important on board. Musk recently said he’d put his Tesla Roadster atop the rocket as the payload and send it to Mars, but then SpaceX told some news outlets he was joking. Musk hasn’t really done anything to dispel the idea that he’s going to launch a car into space, though.
The Falcon heavy launch is currently scheduled for some time in January, which is not an optimal Mars transfer timeframe, by the way. When it’s up and running, a Falcon Heavy launch will cost customers $ 90 million and will carry as much as 140,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit. It’ll have a payload capacity of 37,000 pounds to Mars. That’s enough to take a few Teslas.
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