SpaceX will attempt the first launch of its new giant rocket, the Falcon Heavy, on Feb. 6, the company's CEO Elon Musk said Saturday (Jan. 27).
The much-anticipated maiden flight of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket will lift off from the historic Launch Pad 39A — the same one used for NASA's Apollo moon missions and space shuttle flights — at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Musk's announcement came three days after SpaceX test-fired the Falcon Heavy's 27 first-stage engines for the first time at the launchpad on Wednesday (Jan. 24).
"Aiming for first flight of Falcon Heavy on Feb. 6 from Apollo launchpad 39A at Cape Kennedy," Musk wrote on Twitter. "Easy viewing from the public causeway." [In Photos: SpaceX's 1st Falcon Heavy Rocket at the Pad]
While Musk did not specify a launch time for the Falcon Heavy's first flight, the mission may lift off during a three-hour launch window that opens at 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT), according to a SpaceNews report. A backup launch date is available the following day, SpaceNews added.
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy booster is the most powerful rocket since NASA's Saturn V moon rocket. Its first stage consists of three Falcon 9 cores that are designed to return to Earth after launch much like the company's solo Falcon 9 flights.
The heavy-lift rocket stands 230 feet tall (70 meters) and is designed to launch payloads of up to 119,000 lbs. (57 metric tons) into space. It can carry twice the load of its nearest rival: the Delta IV Heavy built by the United Launch Alliance.
For its debut flight, the Falcon Heavy is carrying Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster into space. Musk has said the launch, if successful, will deliver the Roadster into a heliocentric orbit that will eventually send the midnight-cherry-red electric car by Mars.
However, Musk has repeatedly attempted to lower expectations for the Falcon Heavy's first flight, saying there is a fair chance the launch could fail.
"There's a lot that could go wrong there," Musk said last year. "I encourage people to come down to the Cape to see the first Falcon Heavy mission; it's guaranteed to be exciting."
And Musk isn't alone in promising excitement. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC), which offers tickets to view launches from Florida's Space Coast, unveiled a series of Falcon Heavy launch viewing packages on Thursday (Jan. 25).
Those launch viewing packages range in price from $35 per person (for simple viewing access and parking) to the already-sold-out $195 per person "Feel the Heat" package, which offers two-day admission to the KSC Visitor Complex, transportation to a viewing area at the complex's Apollo/Saturn V Center, a trip to the Shuttle Landing Facility, a catered meal, SpaceX hat and other amenities.
"When SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy lifts off from Kennedy Space Center's famed Pad 39A, the same launchpad from which Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong set course for the moon on Apollo 11 in 1969, a new kind of history will be made," KSCVC representatives said in the announcement.
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy test flight will come one week after the company's next mission. That flight will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the GovSat-1 communications satellite from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.