Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX Falcon Heavy warms up LC-39A during static test fire

SpaceX conducted a static test fire of its Falcon Heavy rocket on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at approximately 12:30 p.m. EST at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A in Florida. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceX conducted a static test fire of its Falcon Heavy rocket on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at approximately 12:30 p.m. EST at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — This afternoon, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time, SpaceX static-fired all 27 of the engines on its Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. Live video on shows that the rocket fired for at least 10 seconds. This test indicates SpaceX is moving closer to a launch date for its new heavy-lift vehicle.

Better late than never

The test of Falcon Heavy’s kerosene/liquid oxygen engines produced an impressive roar and column of smoke over Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. This was the most thrust fired at the pad since Space Shuttle Atlantis conducted the final flight of the Shuttle Program in July of 2011. The ten-second test provided just enough time for SpaceX to verify that it could fire all 27 engines safely without lifting off.

The static test fire lasted for an estimated 10 seconds. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

The static test fire lasted for an estimated 10 seconds. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

Falcon Heavy’s first launch has been a source of some speculation since the vehicle was first announced. The Hawthorne, California-based company has focused on its Falcon 9 rocket and its growing launch manifest, working through teething problems along the way. The loss of a Falcon 9 during a static test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in September 2016 and the subsequent refurbishment of that pad likely impacted the Falcon Heavy schedule as well. Even before that, SpaceX lost the CRS-7 Dragon spacecraft in 2015 during its flight to the International Space Station.

An actual first launch of Falcon Heavy became real when Elon Musk shared photos of the rocket on Twitter as well as its payload of a Tesla Roadster in December of last year (2017).

The anticipated launch date shifted from mid-January to late January to now likely sometime in February. As the company is tight-lipped about much of its activities compared to other launch service providers, speculation has been that these delays might have occurred due to an abundance of caution. Nevertheless, the rocket was raised into a vertical position at Launch Complex 39A on December 28. Potential static tests slated for last week were held up multiple times due to unspecified reasons, with one delay caused by the short-lived government funding shutdown.

While the actual launch date has yet to be formally announced, Elon Musk, the NewSpace company’s CEO and founder, noted on Twitter that the launch could take place in a week or so.





Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.

Reader Comments

Clarissa MacDougall

Not a paper rocket.

Why did you call SpaceX “NewSpace”?

Jan. 25, 2018

Hi Sean,
That term is a common one to refer to the newer companies that are entering the LSP market.
Sincerely, Jason Rhian

WooHoo, I have my launch ticket for the heavy! So Excited, I was afraid they would open up ticket sales when I wasn’t paying attention. Sitting in Titusville and waiting 🙂

Successful static fire. Really does seem to be a real rocket. Another step on the road to launch.
Looking forward to an actual launch. Odds are moving toward a successful debut flight.
Well done SpaceX.

This test was an important one, and indication that this space vehicle is no longer mythical vaporware. I very excited to see the actual launch!

Looks like the launch is set for February 6th. Fingers crossed that all goes as planned so the world can finally move forward in terms of both launch capability and price.

Where are all the sceptics now, eh? Fanboys and Fangirls unite!
Now, lets hope Musk is wrong, and the thing doen’t explode during launch.

It’s ok to be sceptical when the evidence supports it but not when it clearly doesn’t. Then it’s either ignorance or simply trying to put a different spin on things for whatever reason.

Totally agree Neil. My excitement got away on me. The launch will be really exciting, whether it’s a full or partial success.

Yep understand. I’m counting down to what promises to be the event of 2018 in the space launch business. Even a test flight by Boeing or SpaceX crew capsules won’t IMO compete.

27 engines. What a mess. Launching a car. Sad spectacle. What is it good for? Not much.

130 metric tons is the benchmark. SLS is on the way and the Moon is where it is going.

To paraphrase Shotwell, “they are not Moon people”.

Well Gary, that’s your opinion and you entitled to it. My view is somewhat different however and I prefer to be optimistic and see the FH as an addition to the capabilities available to both NASA and commercial companies.
SLS has been on the way for a long time now, much longer than FH and what we have is FH getting ready to launch while SLS and Orion for that matter continue to slip their timelines. I expect SLS / Orion to launch maybe a few times eventually but the cost to build and fly them is not sustainable. There will only be a NASA demand and even they may not be able to afford it.
Time will tell.
Looking forward to seeing FH launch as it seems are many others.

“I expect SLS / Orion to launch maybe a few times eventually but the cost to build and fly them is not sustainable.”

Well Neil, that’s your opinion and you are entitled to it. Funny how we sustained the Shuttle, which is just a different version of the SLS, for 30 years. My view is that you and many others have wished and hoped and prayed for the SLS to be killed for so long that it has warped your perception of reality. Cheers.

The Shuttle was sustained in a different political and geopolitical environment. If NASA hopes to go to the Moon and beyond on a regular basis and sustain settlements anywhere beyond LEO, low cost launchers will be necessary. They won’t be doing that on a 1billion per flight rocket. That’s just being realistic. If NASA had access to 50 billion or more per year in funding, then maybe it could sustain human settlement with the SLS. Unfortunately, it’s extremely unlikely that such funding becomes available and by the time the SLS can actually launch 130t, the BFR will be over the horizon. Btw, SLS will be a 70-84t rocket for years while the FH is 64t. The initial difference in weight won’t be so large. My guess is that FH capacity is probably sufficient to support a Moon base and would do it for a fraction of the cost, a more realistic cost that NASA can actually afford on a regular basis. Assuming all goes well on the 6th that is. We will have to wait and see

There’s also a question of whether the current payload mass is given for a Block 4 FH. If that’s the case it means the Block 5 FH will eventually have a payload capacity that’s higher than 64t. Probably close to or exceeding 70t. That would mean an expendable FH could more or less match the Block 0 SLS payload mass while being 5 or more times cheaper. I would guess they are already counting Block 5 specs but haven’t found any specific details on this.

“low cost launchers will be necessary.”

Actually, meaningful payloads on a regular basis will be “necessary”; the cost can be high or low but that does not determine success or failure. Screaming cheap is number one in the NewSpace playbook.
“1 billion per flight”
That is not how much it will cost. NewSpace propaganda. With a shuttle era launch cadence it will cost less than the shuttle because most of the expense was reuse. Screaming too expensive is number two in the NewSpace playbook.

“-a more realistic cost that NASA can actually afford-”
NASA has been subsidizing SpaceX from the start. Your Orwellian logic of making it sound like SpaceX is not the poster child for corporate welfare, campaign contribution payback, blowing up and promising stuff that does not happen for years is…number three in the NewSpace playbook.

Gary Church, there is no ‘playbook’, there is however simple logic you seem unable or unwilling to grasp, why I’m not quite sure other than that you might be invested in SLS somehow (job possibly?). If I hadn’t actually looked at the numbers available you could maybe convince me with your aggressive support for a way of working that has produced promises over more than half a century and no results other than stagnation in capability. How many times have we heard about the Mars/Moon missions from how many different administrations which inevitably get cancelled down the road and usually due to cost? I am reasonably confident that if anyone is going to create and maintain a base on the Moon or Mars, it won’t be with ‘OldSpace’ technology/production procedures. If that particular setup worked, the above would have happened by now.

It remains to be seen if SLS will bring meaningful payloads to the Moon and beyond, it hasn’t flown yet and has cost about 20 billion in non-adjusted dollars so far. It seems that the fact Falcon 9 cost 400 million to design and build has escaped your knowledge. Or that Falcon Heavy is not sponsored by NASA/government. Your idea of corporate welfare seems delusional to me in the face of such facts. The total cost of COTS/CCP is far below SLS costs and includes not only SpaceX but Boeing and Orbital ATK which are OldSpace companies. SLS is not flying yet and won’t be for a while. The total cost to NASA/government from lost SpaceX cargo missions is minimal in terms of money compared to the savings. Let’s also not forget that Orbital ATK also had a failure and have flown far fewer missions/delivered less cargo to the station while SpaceX has already fulfilled their contract in therms of cargo mass delivered to ISS. Please inform yourself better befor going on such a rant.

⚠ Commenting Rules

Post Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *