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January 24, 2018

Onward to Mars! SpaceX completes Falcon Heavy static fire test in Florida

by John_A

After a long series of delays and unexpected setbacks, SpaceX successfully completed a static fire engine test for its Falcon Heavy rocket today at Pad 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At around 12:30 PM local time, the rocket’s massive engines roared to life, sending huge plumes of smoke into the air surrounding it, and sending spaceflight enthusiasts into a frenzy on social media.

This static fire test (in which the engines are fired but the rocket does not lift off), is a critical step toward the Falcon Heavy’s maiden launch — a much-anticipated event in which the rocket will — no joke — attempt to put SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster into orbit around Mars. While SpaceX has not set a date for the full launch, a successful static fire test suggests it could happen very soon.

The Falcon Heavy is a product of SpaceX’s reusable rocket program, designed as three Falcon 9 rockets together with a single upper stage. At 230-feet tall, the massive rocket is equipped with 27 Merlin engines, which are capable of generating 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This is equal to that of 18 Boeing 747s, according to SpaceX.

If the rocket’s Maiden voyage goes according to plan, it will likely be quite a spectacle. After sending its payload into orbit, the rocket’s boosters will detach, fall back to  and (hopefully) land safely back on Earth — a feat that SpaceX has achieved multiple times in the past with its Falcon 9 rockets. The mission itself is far from a guaranteed success, however; Musk is aware that the launch may fail, and even if it succeeds, the rocket might never make it into orbit.

More fun facts: Apparently, the Tesla will (hilariously) be playing a recording of David Bowie’s legendary song, Space Oddity, which was released five days before the launch of Apollo 11 and 10 days before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the surface of Earth’s moon. Fingers crossed that there’s some sort of stream available.

If you’re wondering what an actual launch might look like, the video above — a rendering published by SpaceX in 2015 — should give you an idea.

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