Sunday, February 4, 2018

FAA Grants Launch License for Debut SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch, Weather 80% GO!

Maiden SpaceX Falcon Heavy ignites 27 first stage engines during first ever static fire test generating 5 million pounds of thrust and an enormous exhaust plume on Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – as seen on Jan. 24  2018 from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Debut liftoff slated for 6 February 2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

Ken Kremer  --  --   3 Feb 2018
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted SpaceX a launch license for the debut launch of the mammoth Falcon Heavy rocket targeted for Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 6, from NASA’s historic launch complex 39A in Florida - clearing one of the last hurdles to history.

An FAA license from the Office of Commercial Transportation is required for all commercial launches conducted from US soil.

And to make matters even better for the hordes of space enthusiasts flocking to the Florida Space Coast for this signature space event - the weather outlook for the first launch of the soon to be ‘World’s Most Powerful Rocket’ is rather promising at 80% GO!

So, for the second time in less than 1 week a SpaceX Falcon is set to soar to space following Wednesdays (Jan. 31) blastoff of a preflown SpaceX Falcon 9 that successfully delivered the GovSat-1 telecommunications satellite to supersynchronous orbit for the Government of Luxembourg and SES, one of the world’s top satellite operators.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying GovSat-1/SES-16 lifts off at 4:25 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida to geostationary transfer orbit on Jan. 31, 2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/
The payload is SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s ‘modified’ cherry red Tesla Roaster sports car that will be hurled outward on a whimsical trip to Mars orbit.  It will be playing David Bowie’s hit song ‘Space Oddity.’

“Space Exploration Technologies is authorized to conduct a flight of the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) transporting the modified Tesla Roadster (mass simulator) to a hyperbolic orbit,” reads the FAA license.

The FAA issued the launch license on Feb. 2, 2018, and it only covers the maiden liftoff with Musk’s Tesla and for a period limited to 1 year from the date of issuance.

SpaceX plans to recover all three boosters from the inaugural test flight of  the triple core rocket and the FAA license includes both the sea based and ground based precision guided landings.

“Flight includes landing of the Falcon Heavy first stage core and side boosters as indicated in the license application,” noted the FAA.

“The license terminates upon completion of the launch authorized by the license, or one (1) year from the effective date of this license order, whichever comes first.”

SpaceX CEO and billionaire founder Elon Musk revealed the targeted launch date publicly for the first time only last week.    

“Aiming for first flight of Falcon Heavy on Feb 6 from Apollo launchpad 39A at Cape Kennedy,” Musk tweeted Saturday, Jan. 27 – even as his firm’s single stick Falcon 9 targeted blastoff on Wednesday, Jan 31 on nearby pad 40 on the Florida Space Coast.

The triple core rocket will lift off from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in the early afternoon during a launch window that opens at 1:30 p.m. EST on Feb. 6.

The two and a half hour long launch window extends from 1:30 p.m. until 4:00 pm EST (18:30-21:00 GMT).  The backup launch day is Feb. 7.

Musk also announced today that a new Falcon Heavy launch simulation will be released soon, presumably prior to liftoff.

“Falcon Heavy launch simulation almost ready. Will be set to Bowie’s Life on Mars,” Musk tweeted.

The latest weather forecast at L- Minus 3 outlines very favorable conditions along the Florida Space Coast with an 80% chance of favorable conditions at launch time according to U.S. Air Force meteorologists with the 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base.

The primary concerns on Feb. 6 are for liftoff winds and the Thick Cloud layer Rule. 

“On Tuesday [Feb. 6], winds are expected to become easterly at 15 mph, again bringing a few low-level clouds in off the water. The main weather concerns are liftoff winds and thick clouds. Maximum upper-level winds will be from the west at 90 knots near 40,000 feet,” said the 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron in the Feb. 3 weather update.

In case of a 24 hour delay the weather outlook remains promising with only a slip dip to 70% chance of favorable launch condition
The primary concern on Feb 7 is again for Liftoff Winds and the Thick Cloud Layer Rule.
The enormous 22 story tall Falcon Heavy vehicle will generate by far the loudest, most impressive and tremendous sounds thundering out from Florida’s Spaceport since the shuttle shutdown in 2011.

It’s truly ‘Rocket Heaven’ time at Florida’s Spaceport – with a double dose of SpaceX Falcons totaling four cores launching back to back.

Launch of the soon to be ‘World’s Most Powerful Rocket’ on its first demonstration mission is at last at hand after years of postponements to refine and validate the design and develop, ready and test this incredible complex “beast” of a vehicle. 

27 first stage Merlin 1D engines will ignite to generate nearly 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust rumbling across the Florida Space Coast as it starts its history making soar to space.

The Falcon Heavy has about double the liftoff thrust of its nearest competitor – namely the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy. 

"We’re stepping through this carefully, it’s a beast of a vehicle," says SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell.

The 1st ever static fire test for the Falcon Heavy took place on Wednesday, Jan 24, at 12:30 p.m. EST and lasted about 10 seconds – as I watched from the Playalinda Beach causeway. Read our stories here.

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 to a pair of side-mounted cores with newly developed nose cones mounted in place of payload fairings. 

The two side cores are ‘flight-proven’ boosters that already launched once and are being recycled for the Heavy.

The gigantic two stage Falcon Heavy stands more than 229 feet (70 meters) tall and measures 39.9 feet wide (12.2 meters).  It also features a dozen grid fins and a dozen landing legs attached to the first stage boosters in an attempt to soft land all three cores – by land and by sea.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discusses Falcon Heavy and rocketry during media briefing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

Read our detailed prelaunch and launch stories. 

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of 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: – – twitter @ken_kremer - ken at

Cherry red Tesla sports car owned by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is the payload on the inaugural test flight of his Falcon Heavy Rocket.  The Tesla will be propelled to Mars on the rocket’s debut flight from KSC pad 39A in Feb 2018.     Credit: SpaceX

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