SpaceX is scheduled to test fire its highly anticipated Falcon Heavy rocket at Kennedy Space Center this week ahead of a planned inaugural flight later this month.
Teams will watch closely as the three-core launch vehicle is loaded with propellant at pad 39A on Thursday, then briefly fire its 27 Merlin engines for the first time. SpaceX has a six-hour window – from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. – to fuel and test the 230-foot-tall rocket.
Results from the firing will be analyzed ahead of Falcon Heavy's demonstration flight around the "end of the month," according to CEO Elon Musk. When it does lift off, its 5.1 million pounds of thrust will solidify its position as the most powerful rocket in the world.
On launch day, safely tucked away in a protective payload fairing will be Musk's 2008 Tesla Roadster, an all-electric sports car that boosted his energy company during its formative years. Its destination? Deep space, according to Musk.
Falcon Heavy is designed to take heavier payloads to higher orbits, opening SpaceX's manifest to new capabilities. The company has already signed contracts to launch commercial missions on the three-core rocket – if the test fire and demonstration flight are successful.