We’ve been talking about SpaceX’s new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, for years now, so it’s exciting to see that the launch vehicle inching closer to its maiden voyage. Last week, the rocket was raised to a vertical position on Pad 39A before being lowered to make way for the Falcon 9 Zuma mission, which launched on Sunday evening. Now, the Falcon Heavy has returned to the pad to prepare for the static fire test, which will take place this week. The test window is tomorrow, January 10th, between 1PM and 7 PM ET.
— Chris G – NSF (@ChrisG_NSF) January 9, 2018
The static fire test means that the heavy duty rocket is almost ready for its first launch, the payload of which will be one of Musk’s Tesla Roadsters. During the test, all 27 of the Falcon Heavy’s Merlin engines will fire at full thrust while the rocket remains on the launch pad. It’s a chance to test all the engines at once and monitor the startup process, pressure, temperature and flow of the propellant. If the test is successful, a launch date could be scheduled very soon. It’s currently targeted for takeoff in late January.
There were questions about whether Falcon Heavy would be delayed because of rumors surrounding the fate of Zuma. While SpaceX maintains that the Falcon 9 launch vehicle performed as expected, it appears that the satellite isn’t functioning. The payload from Northrop Grumman was a secret, and therefore it’s hard to get any facts about its status. However, SpaceX made clear this morning that the rocket wasn’t at fault for any failures (without confirming or denying that there were problems with Zuma), and that the schedule of Falcon Heavy would not be affected.