They're getting ready to rumble. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk says Falcon Heavy, the mighty rocket created for bringing very large loads to orbit and beyond, will get its first launch coming up in November. Musk posted an image on Instagram of a concept depiction of the rocket’s launch alongside the target date.
The 230-foot Falcon Heavy uses the combined power of one Falcon 9 rocket flanked by two additional Falcon 9 boosters to propel up to around 30 tons to geostationary transfer orbit. The rocket's maiden launch will take place from pad 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It's the same pad that saw NASA's storied Saturn V rumble to orbit for the first time 50 years ago on November 9, 1967.
Musk said all three cores would return for individual landings – the two side boosters at and the center core on the company's "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The three rockets bolted together will generate 5.1 million pounds of thrust with 27 Merlin 1D main engines, making the Falcon Heavy the most powerful present-day launcher in the world once it flies. If the flight is successful two more Falcon Heavy flights are on the books in the first half of 2018, both from the Cape. While the inaugural launch will not carry a customer payload, the Falcon Heavy missions next year will deploy satellites for commercial companies and the U.S. military.
Still, Musk downplayed expectations for the first demonstration flight of Falcon Heavy. Last week, he told an audience at a space conference in Washington that there was a “good chance” the rocket will not make it to orbit altitude in its first go.
Musk suggested people should visit the Space Coast for the launch of the most powerful rocket on the planet.
"I encourage people to come down to the Cape to see the first Falcon Heavy mission," he said. "It's guaranteed to be exciting."