A set of straps keeps the Falcon Heavy’s center core firmly on solid ground as SpaceX personnel light the engine for the first static fire test. An 18-second video shows the center core performing as expected.
First static fire test of a Falcon Heavy center core completed at our McGregor, TX rocket development facility last week. pic.twitter.com/tHUHc1QiKG
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 9, 2017
It’s our first glimpse at SpaceX’s next stride into the final frontier. Trips to Earth orbit (low-Earth and GTO) are becoming routine. As are the successful first stage rocket landings. But SpaceX and Elon Musk have their eyes set on a grander target. The Moon, Mars and beyond.
SpaceX aims high and often sets ambitious timetables. Earlier this year, they announced a 2018 mission to send two private citizens on a trip around the Moon. The pair already placed a deposit on the mission and SpaceX wants to make it happen.
First things first, though. The Falcon Heavy needs to get off the ground successfully. Delays have hampered the enormous rocket. SpaceX never shrinks from a challenge, but they sometimes struggle to hit their timetables.
The Falcon Heavy is a beast. That center core in the video above? It’ll be flanked by two “flight proven” Falcon 9 cores as side boosters. 27 Merlin engines will work in tandem to produce 5 million pounds of thrust. SpaceX even gives themselves a little wiggle room as the rocket “can sustain more than one unplanned engine shutdown at any point in flight and still successfully complete its mission.”
That amount of thrust can lift a more than 140,000-pound payload into low-Earth orbit according to SpaceX. Or 58,000 pounds into GTO. 37,000 pounds to Mars. And even 7,700 pounds to Pluto.
A successful Falcon Heavy flight will instantly make SpaceX the home of the world’s most powerful rocket. It can lift nearly triple the weight of what the Space Shuttle could do.
Flying this intricate rocket will be SpaceX’s toughest challenge yet. Doing it successfully will open up a whole new set of destinations for SpaceX and their customers. This week’s 18-second video show they are taking a significant step closer to making those Falcon Heavy CGI videos into reality.
The launch will be hard enough, but SpaceX plans to take rocket landings to a whole new level. All three boosters would return from their short trip into the sky.
After watching the incredible landings over the past year or so, I won’t put anything past the folks at SpaceX.