Falcon Heavy launch 'guaranteed to be exciting'

'Tune in. It's going to be worth your time,' Elon Musk says


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – In a conference call at Kennedy Space Center late Monday afternoon, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said he was "quite giddy and happy" about Tuesday's launch attempt of the world's most powerful operation rocket, the Falcon Heavy.

Musk said the day before a launch he usually feels "super-stressed out."

"It's guaranteed to be exciting one way or the other," Musk told reporters. "Either going to be an exciting success or exciting failure ... one big boom."

Musk said last year he'd consider the test flight a success if it just cleared the launch tower. He said it again Monday afternoon.

"I'm sure we've done everything we could do to maximize the chances of success of this mission," Musk said. "It will be a real huge downer if it blows up. But hopefully we will have learned. If something goes wrong, it goes wrong far into the mission so we at least learn something along the way."

The Falcon Heavy and its three towering rocket boosters have never been tested in flight. SpaceX performed a successful static fire of the 27 Merlin engines -- three on each booster -- last month. 

Musk said the only way to see how a rocket will actually perform in flight is to fly it.

He's concerned about the resonance from the three boosters strapped so closely together. Musk said the 27 engines firing together could cause excess vibration. Shock waves will be amplified as the Heavy breaks the sound barrier. Musk said he's also concerned about ice building up on the nose cones of the side boosters.

Tuesday's three-hour launch window opens at 1:30 p.m. SpaceX will target the top of the window.

Musk said he thought for sure there would be issues with the Heavy or the weather but so no far there are none. Air Force weather casters are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable launch weather.

After launch, both side boosters will separate and attempt to land themselves at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Space Coast can expect to hear two sonic booms from each of the boosters upon landing.

Once the center booster separates from the second stage booster, it will attempt to land on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

The second stage booster will continue into space, eventually ejecting the payload from inside the fairing. Rather than concrete blocks or steel to serve as test mass, Musk has tucked his own personal cherry-red Tesla Roadster inside the nose cone.

Musk said if all goes well, the convertible, with a dummy astronaut behind the wheel, will continue on into deep space to orbit the sun near Mars potentially for more than a billion years.

If not, Musk said the car is "the least" of his concerns. 

If successful, Musk said another Falcon Heavy would be ready for launch within three to six months.

If it is unsuccessful and damages historic launchpad 39-A, Musk said "it will be a real pain in the neck" and take nine to 12 months to renovate the pad.

You can watch the launch and preparations from the pad live on ClickOrlando.com/space beginning Tuesday morning.

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