SpaceX test-fires Falcon Heavy rocket’s engines

Falcon Heavy engine test
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is dwarfed by clouds during a static-fire test. (Elon Musk via Twitter)

SpaceX test-fired all 27 Merlin rocket engines on its mammoth Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time today, throwing up clouds of smoke and steam and sending out the roll of thunder from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

The company’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, reported in a tweet that the hold-down firing was “good.”

“Launching in a week or so,” he said.

The three-core, 230-foot-tall Falcon Heavy is shaping up to become the world’s most powerful rocket in operation, with a liftoff thrust of 5.1 million pounds. Eventually it could be used to send payloads to the moon or Mars, but the first flight is designed solely to test its performance.

There will be at least one significant payload aboard, however: Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster sports car, which is meant to be sent into a widely looping orbit stretching out as far as Mars.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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