CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – SpaceX is preparing to conduct a demonstration flight of the world’s most powerful rocket in the near future, although plans for the launch have been delayed due to the United States federal government shutdown.
The Falcon Heavy is capable of carrying 54 metric tons (119,000 pounds) into orbit – equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel and more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX says on its Web site.
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter early last month that the Falcon Heavy, which is now vertical on the Apollo 11 pad at Cape Canaveral, would launch before the end of January.
“Will have double thrust of next largest rocket. Guaranteed to be exciting, one way or another,” said Musk, who warned last year that there was a strong possibility the vehicle would not make it to orbit.
But the brief US government shutdown that began on Jan. 20 and ended on Monday forced a delay in a static test firing of the rocket’s 27 engines, an operation that must be carried out before a demonstration flight of the three-core vehicle can occur.