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SpaceX pushes first Falcon Heavy launch to 2018

The inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket has been pushed to January of next year, reports Aviation Week. SpaceX had originally scheduled the test launch of the Falcon Heavy for the end of this year. However, SpaceX will conduct a hot-fire test of the Falcon Heavy’s 27 Merlin 1D engines at Cape Canaveral by the end of this month. The debut launch of the Falcon Heavy will follow the static fire test by a couple of weeks.

Composed of two previously-flown Falcon 9 boosters side-mounted to a two-stage center core, the Falcon Heavy is SpaceX’s most powerful launcher capable of delivering over 50 tons of payload to lower earth orbit (LEO). Originally slated to fly in 2013, the Falcon Heavy has incurred numerous delays. Elon Musk has also tempered expectations for the first test launch of the Falcon Heavy telling attendees at the International Space Station Research and Development conference in Washington, D.C. in July: “I hope [the Falcon Heavy] makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would even consider that a win, to be honest.”

As part of the test launch, SpaceX will also attempt to land all three first-stage boosters. So far, SpaceX has landed 18 Falcon 9 boosters in total.

Although SpaceX has moved back the Falcon Heavy test launch, the company has two more launches left this year. On December 8, a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket will boost a Dragon capsule filled with supplies to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral. And on December 22, a Falcon 9 rocket is set to deliver the latest batch of Iridium satellites to space from Vandenberg Air Force base in California.

There has been no word on the status of SpaceX’s highly sensitive Zuma mission for the US government, which was scrubbed in mid-November due to a payload fairing issue on the Falcon 9. SpaceX is currently investigating the situation.

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