After many weeks of preparation, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is almost all set to launch, with a specific target date announced earlier in the week. And while hopes are high that the launch will go exactly as planned, the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, is reportedly keeping his expectations reasonable in the run-up to the potentially historic event.
As confirmed on the Kennedy Space Center’s website, the Falcon Heavy rocket now has a target launch date of Tuesday, February 6, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern standard time. Ideally, SpaceX will be trying to land all three of the rocket’s first stages, with the first two slated to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the other one headed toward Of Course I Still Love You, a drone ship located in the Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, the launch will be taking place less than two weeks after the company was able to fire all of the Falcon Heavy’s engines successfully during a hold-down test at the Kennedy Space Center.
A report from Wired adds that the launch will be attended by some prominent personalities, including Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and Star Wars actor Harrison Ford. The latter celebrity’s presence will be particularly timely, as SpaceX drew inspiration for the Falcon Heavy rocket from the Millennium Falcon, the ship piloted by Ford’s character Han Solo in multiple installments of the Star Wars film series.
Because SpaceX designed the rocket for human space travel, it can carry more than twice as much cargo than the next closest rocket. The company also claims that the rocket would be able to do multiple orbits, as it has a first stage made up of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores for a total of 27 Merlin engines, as well as a second stage that can be restarted more than once. But as Wired pointed out, SpaceX has also gone through multiple setbacks since first teasing the Falcon Heavy close to seven years ago, including an in-flight rocket explosion in 2015, and a major fuel tank explosion in 2016.
Despite all the impressive specifications and potentially game-changing feats the giant rocket is supposedly capable of, Wired noted that Musk is “managing expectations” while he tries to convince people to watch the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch. According to the publication, Musk realizes that the rocket might not even reach orbit, and is willing to consider the launch event as a “win” if he doesn’t end up destroying Cape Kennedy’s launch pad. The SpaceX CEO is also reportedly aware that his company won’t always be NASA’s tenant, despite the fact that it signed a 20-year lease with the space agency.
Even with the Federal Aviation Administration issuing SpaceX a launch license for the Falcon Heavy, as Space.com stated, the February 6 launch date is not 100 percent set in stone. Wednesday, February 7 is scheduled as a backup date, though waiting longer than Wednesday could mean an indefinite postponement. According to Wired, this is because President Trump’s extension of federal funding is due to expire on February 8, and SpaceX cannot launch anything during a government shutdown, as long as it is conducting these events on government property.