SpaceX fires up powerful Falcon Heavy rocket ahead of April 18 launch

flacon heavy boosters in hangar with open door at the other side
SpaceX shared this photo of Falcon Heavy in the hangar on April 11, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's powerful Falcon Heavy rocket is getting ready to fly again.

Elon Musk's company conducted a "static fire" with the Falcon Heavy on Thursday (April 13), briefly igniting the vehicle's 27 first-stage Merlin engines on the launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

Static fires are common preflight tests, designed to ensure that a rocket's various systems are primed for launch. And that liftoff is just around the corner for the Falcon Heavy: It's scheduled to fly from KSC on Tuesday (April 18) at 7:29 p.m. EDT (2329 GMT).

You can watch the liftoff live here at, courtesy of SpaceX, when the time comes.

Related: SpaceX's 1st Falcon Heavy rocket launched Elon Musk's Tesla into space 5 years ago

The upcoming launch will send two satellites toward geostationary orbit. The primary payload is the 14,000-pound (6,400 kilograms) ViaSat-3 Americas, a broadband satellite that will be operated by California-based company Viasat.

The secondary satellite flying on Tuesday is Arcturus, a communications craft belonging to San Francisco-based Astranis Space Technologies.

"Although it only weighs 300 kg [660 pounds], the mighty communications satellite has the ability to provide data throughput up to 7.5 Gbps for ... Alaska and the surrounding region," wrote of Arcturus in a description of the Falcon Heavy mission.

The Tuesday launch will be the sixth overall for Falcon Heavy, which debuted in February 2018 with a test flight that sent Musk's red Tesla Roadster into orbit around the sun with a spacesuit-clad mannequin at the wheel.

The Falcon Heavy's most recent flight, a classified mission for the U.S. Space Force called USSF-67, occurred in January of this year. 

The Falcon Heavy consists of three strapped-together first stages of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, with the central booster topped by an upper stage and the payload(s). These three first-stage boosters are designed to be reusable, but none of them will be recovered on Tuesday, according to (There apparently won't be enough fuel left over for the boosters to steer themselves back to Earth for safe touchdowns.)

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.