SpaceX to fire up Falcon Heavy’s 27 engines this week

Elon Musk’s next big thing will get fully lit up for the first time as soon as Tuesday.

The first demonstration launch of the new biggest rocket in the world could still be weeks away, but first SpaceX is planning to test fire Falcon Heavy’s 27 engines on launch pad 39-A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as soon as Tuesday.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said Falcon Heavy, which is basically three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together and attached to a single upper stage, will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V beast that took Apollo astronauts to the moon. It will also pack more than twice the punch of the next largest rocket system currently in use today.

Heavy has been in place at KSC for several days, undergoing preparations for the planned demo that will lift Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster out of Earth’s gravity well, and on to a symbolic journey toward Mars. That is, if it doesn’t explode first, as Musk has warned it might.

Before launch, though, a number of tests have to be completed. Perhaps the most dramatic is the static fire test in which Falcon Heavy is clamped in place and all 27 of its Merlin engines are fired. It’s kind of like flooring the gas pedal of a muscle car for just a few seconds with a super heavy duty parking brake engaged.

SpaceX had hoped to conduct a static fire test last week, but the date has been slipping for unspecified reasons. Company President Gwynne Shotwell has said the recent mysterious loss of a top secret spacecraft that was launched aboard a Falcon 9 will not affect plans for Falcon Heavy.

Currently, the fire is set to fly from beneath Falcon Heavy on Tuesday, sometime after 1 p.m. PT. SpaceX will not be livestreaming the test firing, but it’ll possible to watch via Spaceflight Now’s subscription webcam.

We’ll also be watching and will let you know how the test goes or update this post if the date slips again.

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