SpaceX confirms Spring 2016 Falcon Heavy launch

An artist's impression of the Falcon Heavy mid-flight. Image courtesy of SpaceX.
An artist's impression of the Falcon Heavy mid-flight. Image courtesy of SpaceX.

Rocket manufacturer and space-launch provider SpaceX has this week confirmed a time period for the first test of its new heavy-lift rocket.

According to reporting by Space News, Lee Rosen, vice president of mission and launch operations at SpaceX made the announcement at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2015 conference.

Speaking about the Falcon Heavy, he confirmed that the first flight of the rocket would come in Spring 2016.

“It’s going to be a great day when we launch that, some time in the late April-early May timeframe,” he said regarding the new spacecraft.

This initial spring launch will be a test launch without a customer or payload, and will be used merely to prove the new system functions as expected.

Should everything go to plan, this will be followed by a second launch in September which will carry a number of satellites for the US Military.

The Falcon Heavy is able to take payloads of up to 53,000kg to Low-Earth Orbit, or 21,000kg to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit. SpaceX hopes that the craft will be launched on a regular basis and massively reduce the cost of launching payloads into space.

Falcon 9 explosion causes delays

This first test of the Falcon Heavy was originally scheduled to be undertaken towards the end of this year, however was delayed due to an accident.

In June this year, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded minutes into its flight due to an “overpressure event” in its upper stage. This caused SpaceX to pause their programs for months as they searched for the cause of the problem.

While the company is now confident it has discovered the source of this problem, all of its spaceflight plans have faced a number of delays due to the decision to conduct a top-down inspection of the rocket’s production line.

“We’re taking more time than we originally envisioned, but I don’t think any one of our customers wants us to race to the cliff and fail again,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX according to Reuters.

Nonetheless, the company is officially sticking to plans to be flying the Falcon 9 by the end of the year, and hopes to prove that it can successfully conduct a controlled landing of its first stage. This would be a large milestone for the company and serve as a proof-of-concept for its reusable rocket designs,