Elon Musk shares first photos of Falcon Heavy rocket
3-booster, 27-engine rocket set for debut launch in January
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared the first photos of the powerful Falcon Heavy Wednesday. The new rocket is set to debut with a Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A liftoff in January.
The photos show the rocket horizontal at a hangar at the Cape waiting to be rolled out to the pad. Before launch, SpaceX will have to conduct a test fire of all 27 of the rocket's Merlin engines.
The rocket has three first-stage boosters, two more than the Falcon 9, each with nine engines. One core is under the first stage, and two are strapped to the sides. SpaceX aims to conduct the test by the end of the month, according to The Associated Press.
Heavy stands 76 yards tall and can lift more than 54 metric tons into orbit using 5 million pounds of thrust at launch.
SpaceX plans land two cores back at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 and one on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, which means the rocket will have to perform a sky ballet as three boosters return to Earth, where they will be refurbished and relaunched. Unless the cores are expendable they will be equipped with waffle-like grid fins used to land the booster upright.
Musk said recently that the Falcon Heavy's first payload will be his own cherry-red Tesla Roadster. The billionaire CEO also owns Tesla. The roadster's destination is Mars orbit, Musk said.
"I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future," Musk said in a tweet.
However, before a hot rod can orbit the red planet the rocket has to get off the ground.
Musk has repeatedly warned there's a good chance the rocket could blow up on ascent.
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