Test fire of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket moves to Saturday

SpaceX president confirms successful launch of government spy satellite Zuma

When Falcon Heavy does finally fire its 27 Merlin engines for about 12 seconds, teams will analyze results from the operation before the rocket's first-ever flight around the end of January, according to CEO Elon Musk. Currently, SpaceX is facing fierce competition from ULA, a launch provider operated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, both of which have long relationships with various elements of the US government.

Company President Gwynne Shotwell said the Falcon 9 rocket "did everything correctly" Sunday night and suggestions otherwise are "categorically false". However, SpaceX censored critical portions of the launch, including the separation of the nose cone surrounding the top-secret Zuma satellite, and the satellite's actual deployment into earth's orbit.

Northrop Grumman Corp, the company which made the satellite (and also selected SpaceX for the launch) refused to comment since all the information related to it is classified. The location and appearance of the sighting matched where the Falcon 9 and Zuma should have been orbiting, based on trackers' pre-flight predictions, and was similar to fuel dumps observed after other launches. The company has already signed contracts to launch commercial missions on the three-core rocket - if the test fire and demonstration flight are successful. The mission, backed by the U.S. government, has become the talk of the town because neither the agency behind the liftoff nor the Pentagon are taking responsibility or sharing details about it post the liftoff.

In the meantime, Falcon Heavy, like its smaller cousin the Falcon 9, will advance SpaceX's goal of cutting launch costs by reusing rockets. However, SpaceX made a decision to delay the launch to deal with some issues regarding the payload fairing (nose cone).

Meanwhile, the internet is speculating that the photo of an ethereal spiral in the night sky taken by Dutch pilot Peter Horstink might be the missing upper part of the Falcon 9 rocket. Musk on Monday tweeted out a long-exposure picture of the launch showing its fiery tail to space - and then the return of the booster, which has now become routine for the company. To viewers of the live stream, the launch seemed like a success.

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The Falcon Heavy will be carrying Musk's midnight cherry Tesla Roadster as its payload to ensure that the rocket works with heavy cargo aboard.

"Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule", said Shotwell. Rep. Mike Rogers, who leads the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee, added rather bluntly that "space is a risky business", but that his committee will continue to provide oversight for future missions tasked with protecting national security.

SpaceX hasn't said why the static fire test was pushed back.

On the heels of the Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9/GovSat 1 missions later this month, SpaceX plans at least two launches in February for two Spanish customers.

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