SpaceX's new megarocket, the massive Falcon Heavy, will make its launch debut in November, according to the company's founder and CEO Elon Musk.
In Twitter and Instagram statements late Thursday (July 27), Musk announced the fall target for the Falcon Heavy's maiden flight.
"Falcon Heavy maiden launch this November," Musk wrote on Twitter. He did not reveal a specific target date for the launch, though it is expected to fly from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX leases the pad from NASA and has been using it for Falcon 9 rocket launches.
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is a heavy-lift rocket that will stand 230 feet tall (70 meters) and be capable of lofting payloads of up to 60 tons (54 metric tons) into low-Earth orbit, and up to 24 tons (22 metric tons) into a geostationary transfer orbit. The rocket will be the most powerful U.S.-built rocket since NASA's Apollo-era Saturn V moon rocket, SpaceX representatives have said.
The Falcon Heavy is based on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and uses two Falcon 9 first stages strapped to a central core (itself a modified Falcon 9 booster). Like the Falcon 9, which can launch into orbit and land its first stage back on Earth for later reflight, the Falcon Heavy is designed to be reusable.
Earlier this month, Musk dampened expectations for the Falcon Heavy's first launch. Speaking July 19 at the International Space Station Research and Development conference in Washington, D.C., Musk said there was a "real good chance" the Falcon Heavy wouldn't make it to orbit.
"I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest," Musk said during the conference.
Earlier this year on March 30, Musk said the first Falcon Heavy will use two previously flown Falcon 9 first stages. SpaceX test fired the first Falcon Heavy core stage in May.
Musk added on July 19 that designing the rocket was much more difficult than he expected, but he is confident that it will eventually prove to be "a great vehicle," despite any early hurdles with the first test flight. And the first test flight should be something to see, he said.
"I encourage people to come down to the Cape to see the first Falcon Heavy mission," Musk said, referring to Cape Canaveral. "It's guaranteed to be exciting."
- SpaceX's Huge Falcon Heavy Rocket: How It Works (Infographic)
- Falcon Heavy - Most Lift Since Saturn V
- SpaceX Falcon Heavy’s Center Core Test-Fired in Texas | Video