Falcon Heavy on pad
The first SpaceX Falcon Heavy at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center Dec. 28 for fit checks in advance of a launch now planned for the end of January. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said Jan. 27 that the company will attempt a first launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket on Feb. 6.

The announcement came three days after the rocket completed a static-fire test at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, a final test milestone before the launch itself. Musk said the test was “good” shortly after the test, but neither he nor the company provided additional details.

“Aiming for first flight of Falcon Heavy on Feb 6 from Apollo launchpad 39A at Cape Kennedy,” Musk tweeted. “Easy viewing from the public causeway.”

Musk did not disclose a time for the launch, but other documents suggest the company has reserved a three-hour launch window opening at 1:30 p.m. Eastern. A backup launch opportunity exists for the following day.

In his comments after the static-fire test, Musk said the launch would take place “in a week or so.” A Feb. 6 launch, though, would give SpaceX time to prepare after its next Falcon 9 mission, of the GovSat-1 communications satellite, scheduled for Jan. 30 from nearby Space Launch Complex 40.

As a test launch without an operational payload, SpaceX has flexibility to use a longer launch window. The test flight is carrying a Tesla Roadster sports car, which Musk said in December would be sent into a heliocentric orbit that would take it past Mars.

Given the nature of the launch as a test, Musk has tried setting expectations accordingly. “There’s a real good chance that vehicle does not make it to orbit. I want to make sure and set expectations accordingly,” he said in July during an on-stage interview at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference here. “I encourage people to come down to the Cape to see the first Falcon Heavy mission. It’s guaranteed to be exciting.”

While a launch date has been set, the company still faces a regulatory obstacle ahead of the launch. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation has not yet issued a launch license for the Falcon Heavy, a requirement for a commercial launch such as this. Such licenses are often issued days ahead of a launch.

Anticipation has been high for this launch, the largest U.S. rocket since the Saturn 5. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, for example, announced Jan. 25 a number of viewing packages for people to see the launch from various locations at the space center.

The most expensive package, at $195 per person, will allow people to watch the launch from the Apollo/Saturn 5 Center, the closest public viewing site, and features a “premium catered meal including a champagne toast and commemorative champagne flute keepsake.” For $115 per person, people can watch the launch from the visitor complex itself at an event that includes a “launch party featuring a live DJ, beach balls, noise makers, giveaways and more.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...