Falcon Heavy Goes Vertical on Pad-39A for First Time

The rocket is undergoing a fit check on the launch pad. A brief static fire of the first stage’s 27 engines will follow in January prior to the maiden flight set for later in the month.

Falcon Heavy will be capable of lifting 63,800 kg (140,655 lb) to low Earth orbit, 26,700 kg (58,863 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit and 16,800 kg (37,038 lb) to Mars. That will make it the most powerful booster in the world.

The payload for the maiden flight will be a Red Tesla Roadster.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    That’s a pretty sturdy looking paper rocket…

  • therealdmt

    Let’s light that candelabra!

  • Kirk

    Here is a still from the SFN video:
    https://i.imgur.com/DWVikwB.jpg
    And here is a shot someone put up on NSF saying they found it on reddit:
    https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=44376.0;attach=1467678;image

  • Michael Halpern

    I think people should know by now that when Musk sets out to do something, it will get done, it may look vastly different and miss a few deadlines, but the end result gets achieved

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    I take all of Elon’s timeframes with a generous dose of salt, but I never doubt his technical competence. This is fantastic news!

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    I was thinking the high fineness of the F9 first stages makes it look a little skinny. Now Delta IV Heavy – that’s a rocket with some cushion for the pushin’.

  • Emmet Ford

    It doesn’t look so skinny in those pictures that are floating around today. Delta IV Heavy does make is look littler in those side by side launcher graphics. Smaller but with more lift capacity. My lizard brain protests.

    And now that I see it on the pad, I can’t help thinking of it as a bit of a Frankenstein rocket, with it’s second hand side boosters, its reinforced center core and its twenty seven, count ’em, twenty seven Merlin engines. My eyes go wide, I take half a step back, and cross my fingers. I do hope this goes well. I really hope it makes it well away from the pad, the commercial crew pad. But for all that hoping, I am optimistic.

    Whatever comes next, SpaceX has had a really good year.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Yes, FH is case in point. Doesn’t have the cross-feed originally promised but still hits the same lift targets on block 5 anyway. All the upside, none of the complexity…and nitwits complain.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    “Smaller but with more lift capacity. My lizard brain protests.”

    LH2 will do that. Bloats a booster like eating a pound of pasta.

  • SamuelRoman13

    No cross feed, but the center engine will be throttled back and will go to full power once the side boosters are dropped. Might be close to cross feed.It might be called a 3 stage rocket. That center stage will go far downrange. I hope it doesn’t hit Africa. FH has the same LEO as SLS block 1. One billion per flight for SLS, 100 million for FH. The saving would pay for a lot of DSG. If a spy was to reveal when the landing ship leaves port, we might have a good idea when the launch is. They said it would be 2 weeks after the test fire, The last of Dec. still has a few days left, so they might make it. 1/19/18 is the last day for launch for the Mars free return plan.

  • SamuelRoman13

    That might be the crew tower on the right. No arm, unless it is retracted.

  • Kirk

    This is 39A, or “Historic Pad 39A” as everyone seems to call it since it was the primary Apollo launch pad as well as a Space Shuttle launch pad. When SpaceX rented the pad, it inherited the Shuttle program’s FSS (Fixed Service Structure) and attached RSS (Rotating Service Structure). Yes, SpaceX will be using the FSS as a crew tower, but they have not yet installed the crew access arm. Instead, they have been slowly but steadily removing the massive RSS, work which has taken well over a year. Photos of every launch have shown the RSS getting progressively smaller as SpaceX has disassembled it piece by piece. You could also see a few orange JBL lifts placed high up into the RSS to aid in disassembly. About two weeks ago the JBL lifts were removed and the last of the rotating skeleton of the RSS was finally removed. There is still a bit of the RSS left where if attaches to the FSS, but once that is gone SpaceX will turn toward modifying the FSS to support their crewed launches, including constructing and installing a crew access arm.

  • Kirk

    I’d be surprised if they do a static fire of the FH until Zuma clears Pad 40, and its scheduled launch is 4 January on a SpaceX Falcon 9.

    As for spying on the movement of the ASDS landing barge and its support ships, they are watch closely and reported on in a number of fora, including reddit and NSF. Here is the appropriate NSF thread: “SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship Discussion Thread 3” https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39766

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    All symmetrical triple stick vehicles will do that. Look at D4H launches, partial thrust mode in the core.

  • Michael Halpern

    If i am not mistaken parts of the FSS were inherited by shuttle from Apollo, obviously it has seen upgrades and maintenance so very little is original from Apollo. but even so the heritage is there

  • Richard Malcolm

    One billion per flight for SLS, 100 million for FH.

    More to the point, taxpayers didn’t have to pay for the the development costs of Falcon Heavy.

    Whereas SLS is at $20 billion and counting.

  • Vladislaw

    Toss in the capsule and we are pushing 30 billion…

  • publiusr

    Apollo paid for the pad it stands on, and COTS..etc.

  • publiusr

    Whick pays for a spaceflight industry Musk can draw on. Every dollar of Apollo was 7-10 bucks on the ground. I don’t see that cost as a bad thing at all.

  • Richard Malcolm

    1) The launch pad: Well, hell, that’s a sunk cost decades in the rear view mirror. SpaceX leasing it actually gets some return on that investment, since otherwise, LC39A would be sitting vacant, growing weeds in the concrete seams – not least because SpaceX has invested tens of millions of dollars in upgrading it, as they have done with LC40 from the Air Force. (The only launch pad at the Cape NASA has any plans for is LC39B.)

    2) COTS contracts were almost entirely performance-based. They were payments for payloads actually delivered to the station. Which is not the same thing as the money given to ULA, LockMart and Boeing over the last two decades to develop Delta IV and Atlas V, let alone hefty retainers to keep a “standby” capability.

    Falcon Heavy really was a SpaceX initiative. Its development has been paid for out of SpaceX coffers. Assuming it launches successfully this month, it’s a ready capability that NASA would only have to pay for actual launch services on, if they wish.