Nature & Space: Falcons & Flocks Await Static Fire Test of 1stSpaceX Falcon Heavy at KSC: Photos/Videos

Ken Kremer -- Space UpClose -- 10 Jan 2018

MERRITT ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REGUGE/PLAYALINDA BEACH, FL - Nature and Space intertwined beautifully today as flocks of pelicans and other wildlife frolicked in waterways within earshot of the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy to grace historic launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – and that will soon reverberate with the thunder of rockets roaring across the Florida Space Coast.

Little do they know as they swim about that they are enjoying the calm before the storm as SpaceX engineers and pad technicians are hard at work busily processing the new rocket to carry out a crucial test for the very first time known as a static hot fire test.

The 23-story tall, triple core Falcon Heavy stack was transported to Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) on Monday, Jan. 8, and raised vertical for only the second time to ready the mammoth rocket for the crucial test firing of all 27 first stage engines simultaneously for the first time. The 3 cores have not been tested together yet since SpaceX does not possess a large enough test stand to hold 3 cores.

Myself and a small group of space journalist colleagues gathered to witness the historicstatic hot fire test which originally was planned to be conducted as early as today, Wed. Jan. 10 but which now has slipped to Thursday, Jan 11 at the earliest.

Enjoy our gallery of high resolution images and videos taken today Jan. 10, from our vantage point at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore as these wonders of nature swam around backdropped by this wonder of manmade technology - the first fully integrated SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket standing erect at Launch Complex 39A.

Teams of technicians were seen today working around the pad and beneath the rocket conducting fits checks, making sure all the computer, electrical, plumbing, gas lines and other connections between the rocket, pad and transporter erector were in place and preparing the gigantic vehicle for propellant loading for the first time.

Given the heavy work flow it’s not at all surprising that the static fire test was pushed another day to no earlier than Thursday.

The static hot test fire test may take place approximately between 1-7 p.m. EST (1800-0000 GMT).

The engine tests usually lasts at least about 3 seconds in duration, but could last longer in this case since it’s a brand new rocket, perhaps as long as 12 to 15 seconds some reports indicate.

The 27 Merlin 1D first stage engines will generate a combined 5.1 million pounds of liftoff thrust.

However for this first mission they will run at 92% of rated thrust, said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

The rocket will be fueled with liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants and the SpaceX engineering team will conduct a full launch dress rehearsal. If all goes well they will give the command to ignite the Merlin-1D first stage engines.

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

The static fire test comes just days after SpaceX launched their Falcon 9 workhorse on Jan. 7 carrying the classified Zuma mystery intelligence satellite to an unknown fate andpossible destruction.

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.

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 mid/late January – if all goes well. The Tesla will be hurled towards Mars orbit in a long looping heliocentric orbit around the sun.

The debut demonstration Falcon Heavy launch could take place quickly pending a successful outcome of the static fire test.

“Falcon Heavy has been rolled out to launchpad LC-39A for a static fire later this week, to be followed shortly thereafter by its maiden flight,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement today, Jan. 9.

“We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg Government fromSLC-40 in three weeks.”

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of SpaceX Zuma, Falcon Heavy, ULA and NASA and space mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Nature and Space intertwine as flocks of pelicans swim in front of first fully integrated SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket standing erect at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – as seen on Jan. 10, 2018 from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore prior to planned static test firing of all 27 first stage engines this week. Debut liftoff slated for mid/late January 2018. Credit: Ken Kremer/
Triple coreSpaceXFalcon Heavygoes vertical almost dead center amidst all the Florida Spaceports active launch pads - pictured today Jan 10, 2018 awaiting Static Fire Test as soon as Jan. 11 at Launch Complex 39A, and soon to become worlds most powerful rocket. Debut liftoff slated for mid/late January 2018. Credit: Ken Kremer/