• SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket makes its debut at Launch Complex 39A on the Kennedy Space Center on Dec. 28, 2017. Debut liftoff slated for late January 2018. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX Releases 1st Up Close Imagery of Debut Falcon Heavy Rocket Erect on Pad 39A

Ken Kremer -- Space UpClose -- 5 Jan 2018

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL//PLAYALINDA BEACH, FL – SpaceX and CEO Elon Musk have released the first up close imagery of the maiden Falcon Heavy rocket after it was raised vertical for the first time at its launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on December 28, 2017.

The newly released high resolution imagery consists of photos and videos shot at close range by SpaceX photographers during the Falcon Heavy rockets brief 1-day long debutat Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 28.

After “going vertical” the complete 23 story tall, triple core rocket stack including the nose cone only remained erect on the pad for one day. It was lowered back horizontally and rolled down off pad 39A and back into its processing hangar later in the evening that same day last week.

This author and Space UpClose also captured photos of the vertical Falcon Heavy the same day, Dec. 28, from nearby Canaveral National Seashore and Playalinda Beach onthe Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Fl.

The triple stick Falcon Heavy is comprised of a trio of Falcon 9 boosters - including a significantly modified central core, to deal with aerodynamic stresses, that is attached toa pair of side-mounted cores with newly developed nose cones mounted in place of payload fairings.

The latest potential launch target for the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural demonstration mission is currently foreseen around late January, Musk just announced.

But before that launch can happen, SpaceX engineers must carry out a successful static fire test igniting all 27 first stage Merlin 1D engines for a duration of at least several seconds with the rocket firmly held down at pad 39A.

The static fire test could happen as soon as next week - but not until after a successful SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of the classified payload codenamed ‘Zuma’ for the US government from pad 40, that is slated for no earlier than (NET) Jan. 7.

“Falcon Heavy now vertical on the former Apollo 11 moon rocket launchpad,” Musk stated regarding the 28 photos. “At 2500 tons of thrust, equal to 18 Boeing 747 aircraft at full throttle, it will be the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two. Excitement on launch day guaranteed, one way or another.”

“Hold-down test fire next week. Launch end of the month.”

Historic pad 39A was home to NASA’s Apollo Moon landing missions including the first one Apollo 11 in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as numerous Space Shuttle launches that spanned three decades starting in the 1980s.

Billionaire CEO Elon Musk’s personal red Tesla sports car is the prime payload for the debut launch of SpaceX’s massive Falcon Heavy rocket in late January – if all goes well. The Tesla will be hurled towards Mars orbit in a long looping heliocentric orbit around the sun.

The Falcon Heavy will take the title of world’s most powerful current rocket whenever it does fly.

Inanimate mass simulators made of “concrete or steel blocks” often serve as the payload for the first test flights of new rockets Musk notes, due to the potentially high risk of failure.

Watch this Instagram video released by Musk.

With more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff—equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft at full power—Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two.

A post shared by SpaceX (@spacex) on



Caption: With more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff—equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft at full power—Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. http://instagram.com/p/BdeEU2glMJT

The gigantic two stage Falcon Heavy stands more than 229 feet (70 meters) tall and measures 39.9 feet wide (12.2 meters). It also features a dozen grid fins and a dozen landing legs attached to the first stage boosters in an attempt to soft land all three cores.

The Falcon Heavy first stage will generate 5.1 million pounds of liftoff thrust fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants, when it blasts off from pad 39A.

“Falcon Heavy launching from same NASA pad as the Saturn V Apollo 11 moon rocket,”Musk tweeted. “It was 50% higher thrust with five F-1 engines at 7.5M lb-F. I love that rocket so much.”

For the debut Demonstration 1 mission it will blast off using about 4.7 million pounds of thrust - a bit less than full thrust according to Musk.

“Max thrust at lift-off is 5.1 million pounds or 2300 metric tons. First mission will run at 92%,” Musk explained via tweet.

The 23 story tall Falcon Heavy weighs more than 3.1 million pounds (1.4 million kilograms).

Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
First fully integrated SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket that was raised vertical for the first time at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December28, 2017 – as seen from Canaveral National Seashore. Debut liftoff slated for late January 2018. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com