Thursday night, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that the Falcon Heavy rocket would make its maiden launch in November from Launch Complex-39A in Florida. Although this event has been long promised by the company, with real hardware being tested and moved across the country, this date finally feels real.
Musk has recently attempted to set expectations for the maiden launch, which will carry a dummy payload because the rocket is so experimental. “I encourage people to come down to the Cape to see the first Falcon Heavy mission,” Musk said earlier this month during a talk at the International Space Station Research & Development Conference. “It’s guaranteed to be exciting.”
The Falcon Heavy is powered by a modified Falcon 9 rocket as its center core, with two Falcon 9 first stages as side boosters. To work, its 27 orbital-class engines must ignite simultaneously, and SpaceX has been conducting tests on the ground. But the challenges don’t end there. The company isn’t sure about the airflow around the rocket as it goes through the sound barrier, nor how it will handle loads at MaxQ, when the vehicle is under maximum dynamic pressure.