Source: SpaceX

Musk to Test New Rocket in Late Summer Ahead of Tourist Mission

  • SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy key to sending customers around the moon
  • Rocket designed to carry heavy payloads, fly deeper into space

Elon Musk is planning a first test run late this summer with what his SpaceX bills as the most powerful rocket in the world, a step toward sending two paying tourists around the moon late next year.

Musk announced on Twitter the scheduled test flight for Falcon Heavy, which is designed to carry larger payloads than the Falcon 9s already in use. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has launched four of the smaller rockets this year, but it has yet to test the bigger rocket required for the closely-held company’s push into deep-space exploration.

“Falcon Heavy will be able to carry heavy payloads for customers like the Pentagon, but it’s also important for the long-term goal of pushing further into the solar system,” said Phil Larson, a space policy adviser to Barack Obama who worked for SpaceX and is now at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Falcon 9 can send the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, but Falcon Heavy can send Red Dragon all the way to Mars.”

Falcon Heavy is a multi-stage rocket, with two portions that each have their own engines and propellant. Musk said on Twitter on Friday he may try to recover the upper stage of Falcon Heavy after the test flight this summer, to reuse it in future missions. SpaceX pulled off this feat with a reused Falcon 9 stage on Thursday, a first for an orbital-stage rocket.

“Odds of success low, but maybe worth a shot,” Musk tweeted, referring to his plans for the Falcon Heavy recovery attempt.

Read more: SpaceX pulls off first reused rocket mission

Falcon Heavy will be the biggest rocket since the Saturn V, which launched the Apollo moon missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Its first stage is comprised of three Falcon 9 engine cores that are attached together.

Last month, Musk announced that two private citizens have paid a “significant deposit” to fly around the moon late next year on a mission using the Falcon Heavy. SpaceX also has plans to send an unmanned “Red Dragon” capsule to Mars in 2020.

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