Largest SpaceX Rocket Takes a Stand at Florida Launch Site
Planning for a January launch date, SpaceX loaded their new Falcon Heavy rocket onto the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, where both the Apollo program and Space Shuttle have previously taken flight. SpaceX has been regularly ferrying cargo to the International Space Station and placing satellites in orbit, but this launch will be the first test of their largest rocket and even CEO Elon Musk is hesitant, saying that a successful launch will be one that "makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage." This will be the largest rocket launched since 1973's Saturn V.
The Falcon Heavy is effectively three of the Falcon 9 rockets currently in use that have been reinforced and attached together. This extra launch power gives a two to four-fold increase in the rocket's payload capacity while only increasing the launch cost by 50% over the smaller rocket. Need to stick 140,000 lbs of space-stuff into low earth orbit? SpaceX has you covered, for the low price of $90 million.
With this launch position test completed, the rocket will now be taken down and test fired to make sure all the engine systems are functioning correctly. After that, a more definitive launch date can be set, but for now, the target is January 2018.
To test the payload capability, SpaceX has loaded Elon Musk's original Tesla Roadster onto the tip of the rocket, which will be jettisoned into space and pointed toward Mars. Musk has joked on social media about the launch of his car, so it's hard to tell fact from his deadpan style of humor, but if nothing else, the car has been loaded into the nose cone and was in place when the rocket was lifted onto the launch pad. Whether it will be playing David Bowie's "Space Oddity" or if it will survive the cold of space remains to be seen.
Until all tests are completed and an official launch date is set, enjoy this computer simulation of the Falcon Heavy launch: