Elon Musk is all set for the first test launch on Tuesday of its Falcon Heavy. The attempt to fly the world's most powerful rocket from the Kennedy Space Center aims to become the world's most powerful rocket in operation.
"NASA may decide to use it (the Falcon Heavy) as a way of fast-tracking its plans to get to the Moon and Mars," Erik Seedhouse, assistant professor of applied aviation sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, told AFP.
Tuesday's launch is a "huge deal, even for a spaceflight company that routinely accomplishes huge deals," said Jason Davis of the Planetary Society, describing the Falcon Heavy as "mythical."
"Starman in a Red Roadster," Musk posted on Instagram Monday, showing the rocket's payload on a pedestal, aiming skyward.
Musk has also said David Bowie's hit "Space Oddity" would play in the vehicle during the launch.
"I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future," Musk tweeted last year.
The blast-off is scheduled for 1:30 pm (1830 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
"Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent," Musk said on Twitter in December.
Even if there is a disaster on the launchpad Tuesday, Seedhouse said it is unlikely to harm the reputation of SpaceX -- already a top cargo supplier to the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA and busy with a steady stream of satellite clients and government payloads.
"Last year they had more launches than any other country in the world -- never mind any other company," Seedhouse said.
"Every failure they have had they have bounced straight back," he said.
- Most powerful in operation -
The Falcon Heavy is essentially three Falcon 9 rockets in one, with a total of 27 Merlin engines.
These engines "together generate more than five million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft," said SpaceX.
When and how to watch Online streaming of Heavy Falcon Rocket Launch:
# The live launch of the Falcon Heavy is scheduled to take place on Feb. 6, likely between a three-hour window starting at 1:30 p.m.
# SpaceX's live streams through YouTube.
# There are a couple of ways to tune in live, including on the company's official Facebook page and through the SpaceX YouTube channel.
# Live streams are generally initiated about 15 minutes before launch and feature commentary from SpaceX engineers and mission control specialists.
Falcon Heavy sends a car to Mars— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 5, 2018