Watch SpaceX Test-Fire the Falcon Heavy Rocket Before its Big Launch
After years of waiting, SpaceX's giant Falcon Heavy rocket is very nearly ready for its maiden voyage.
Elon Musk's spacefaring company has performed the final test necessary on the spaceship, ensuring that its rocket boosters will function as anticipated once the Falcon Heavy blasts off into the upper atmosphere. All going well, this successful trial means suggests we're only a week away from one of the biggest milestones in commercial space travel.
Today's test involved a "static fire", in which all 27 of the rocket's engines were stress-tested while kept firmly on terra firma. Potentially the next time these engines fire, they'll be propelling the entire ship upwards into the sky, so it's been crucial that everything goes well in such tests. According to Musk himself, all is good, and after years of delays and several tentative launch dates, we might finally get to see the Falcon Heavy in flight.
See the test-fire, and all the huge clouds of smoke that come with it, below:
This must come as something of a boon to Musk, whose commercial space flight company hasn't been having a great time. SpaceX has suffered from a double-whammy of bad news this month which has likely led to a lot of internal discussions within the company.
A couple of weeks ago, NASA's safety advisers warned against using SpaceX for flights, hurting the company's reputation somewhat. NASA has incredibly strict safety requirements for all of its missions, and much of Musk's work over the past few years has been in an effort to convince the space agency to trust his company with larger, more valuable missions.
For SpaceX to still not get the greenlight from NASA suggests that the future of space haulage might not be as secure as Musk has been hoping. In fairness, NASA has every right to be suspicious of SpaceX, considering that immediately before the safety advisers presented their negative report, the company managed to lose a US military spy satellite.
Earlier this month, SpaceX was allowed to launch the new, mysterious ZUMA satellite into orbit, but at some point in the process, the payload entirely disappeared, suggesting that it probably crashed back down to Earth in a big, expensive fireball. The Pentagon remains coy as to what exactly actually went wrong, so it's not clear whether this critical mission failure was the result of SpaceX hardware, but the company isn't exactly enjoying fantastic goodwill over at NASA.
HF/Hotfire: Enormous exhaust plume, much more extensive than in a single stick hot fire; better sound too! pic.twitter.com/Iy8rG8uHyW— William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) January 24, 2018
All said, Elon Musk is not known for giving up in the face of harsh, explosive adversity. With the Falcon Heavy, he's hoping to bring a far larger form of space haulage to the commercial sector, and sooner or later, he'll achieve this goal.
It merely remains to be seen how much longer we'll have to wait before the Falcon Heavy proves itself. After years of development, this groundbreaking rocket might finally get the chance to fly.