SpaceX ready for one more mission before Falcon Heavy's maiden launch

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket on Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A. Credit SpaceX

After years and years of work, SpaceX how has an official launch date for the rocket. Capable of carrying a payload of 140,000 pounds into low Earth orbit, the rocket is only beaten by the Saturn V Apollo moon program rocket, which could carry up to 310,000 pounds.

Eager space fans have watched closely as the rocket went vertical on the launch pad on December 27, and as the first big test fire of its engines filled the sky with steam clouds on Wednesday.

SpaceX also said in early 2017 that two space tourists put down a deposit to ride on a Falcon Heavy for a trip around the moon.

Somewhat sadly, the inherent engineering limits of older versions of Falcon 9 and the imminent introduction of Block 5 mean that SpaceX has less and less of a need to recover flight proven boosters that have no hope of being cost-effectively refurbished and conducting additional flights.

MELBOURNE, Fla. - SpaceX will be unable to test fire its three-core Falcon Heavy rocket at Kennedy Space Center, further delaying checkout operations ahead of the rocket's demonstration flight, the 45th Space Wing said Sunday.

For its first test mission, the Falcon Heavy will launch a dummy payload.

As proof of the Falcon Heavy's capabilities, and in reverence to Elon Musk's obsession with conquering space travel, the rocket's first mission will involve transporting a midnight cherry Tesla Roadster into space, bound for an orbit around the distant planet of Mars.

The Falcon Heavy will send a Tesla roadster into space. This makes the rocket really "heavy".

"I love the thought of a vehicle drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future", Musk replied when asked on Twitter why he wanted to throw away a $100,000 electric sportscar.

How much does it cost?

The company is the only rocket builder in the world that's safely returned first-stage rocket boosters - which provide the initial thrust at liftoff - back to Earth after launches to orbit.

However, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will remain open, but there will be no bus tours inside the space center.

The launch will be like three normal SpaceX launches happening simultaneously. Inside it are 27 Merlin engines housed in Falcon 9 nine-engine cores. The rocket was fixed down and its engines fired up for the test. In September 2016, a Falcon 9 rocket spontaneously erupted in flames and caused significant damage to a launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"Launching in a week or so", he said.

Follow along live as launch photographer Tom Cross and I cover these exciting proceedings as close to live as possible.

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