Since announcing Falcon Heavy, which is out-performed only by NASA's retired Saturn V rocket, Musk has characterized the maiden flight as "high-risk" due to the "aerial ballet" of coordination required to get it off the ground and land all three boosters.
Not content with running small payloads into space for government officials (and then instantly losing their contents), Elon Musk's SpaceX commercial space flight company now has a concrete date for the inaugural launch of their Falcon Heavy rocket.
As for Musk's Roadster, in less than two weeks it will be playing "Space Oddity" on its way to a billion-year elliptical Mars orbit. On February 6, 2018, Falcon Heavy rocket will blast off from the historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Carnival, Florida. But if there are delays beyond that, all bets are off - the federal government is now funded through February 8, and a government shutdown could stall the launch, since the US Air Force must oversee rocket launches from Cape Canaveral. At that time, Musk said the launch would take place "in a week or so".
"What the space world has learned is that you should not bet against Elon Musk". Everybody is ready for the Falcon Heavy launch. Falcon Heavy was built using the proven heritage and reliability of Falcon 9. While crew aboard at least one of SpaceX's fleet of recovery vessels were tasked with attempting to recover any accessible floating debris after the first stage ditched into the ocean, it was very much intentionally expended, and SpaceX's West coast drone ship never left port. GovSat-1 will see this intentional practice of expending recoverable boosters continue - Falcon 9 B1032 is also expected to ditch into the ocean, with no recovery attempt being made aboard the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You. 27 Merlin 1D engines of the first stage can produce power that equals the same to twenty 747 passenger jets taking off. According to Spaceflight.com, the launch time is not driven by orbital mechanics as the Falcon Heavy booster will fly without an operational payload. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket recieved certification for national security payloads in 2015, and Falcon Heavy will need to go through a similar process before it can be used in that capacity.
"I love the thought of a vehicle drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future", Musk replied when asked on Twitter why he wanted to throw away a $100,000 electric sportscar.
The launch will be like three normal SpaceX launches happening simultaneously.
A SpaceX rocket explosion has destroyed a launch pad before.
"That requires the simultaneous ignition of 27 orbit-class engines".
Follow along live as launch photographer Tom Cross and I cover these exciting proceedings as close to live as possible. Tickets are available at the Kennedy Space Center visitors' complex.