Elon Musk’s space faring company SpaceX made history once again on Wednesday with the successful test firing of the most powerful rocket platform in use anywhere on the planet, the Falcon Heavy.
“Falcon Heavy hold-down firing this morning was good. Generated quite a thunderhead of steam,” Musk tweeted about an hour after the test. “Launching in a week or so.”
At 12:30 P.M. eastern time Wednesday, the Falcon Heavy’s massive array of 27 Merlin rocket engines roared to life at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) for the first time in history, marking the ignition of the most powerful platform to conduct fire tests since the retirement of the Saturn V rocket that ferried Apollo astronauts to the moon and back. The Falcon Heavy, according to Musk, aims to recreate the success of the Apollo missions in the coming years, with plans already in the works to take paying customers on orbital trips around the moon and back.
The Falcon Heavy platform has been in development since 2011, though the complexities of balancing what is effectively three individual Falcon 9 rockets secured to one another proved more difficult to overcome than originally anticipated, leading to a series of delays that have pushed the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy into 2018. Musk, who also heads other ground-breaking companies like The Boring Company and Tesla, announced last year that the Falcon Heavy will first take to the skies carrying a very important payload: his prototype Tesla Roadster.
Though Musk himself has said that he’ll consider the first launch of the Falcon Heavy a success as long as it doesn’t explode close enough to the ground to cause damage to the launch pad.
The Falcon Heavy’s array of rocket engines produces an astonishing 5 million pounds of thrust, roughly equivalent to 18 Boeing 747s. SpaceX has not released a statement regarding the test yet, though witnesses have claimed the burn lasted approximately 10 seconds. More impressive that the output of the platform however, is that Musk claims each Falcon Heavy launch will cost less than a third of the price of a Delta IV launch, which is currently the most powerful operational platform in use today.
Watch the video of the Falcon Heavy’s burn testing of all 27 rocket engines in the video below:
Image courtesy of SpaceX