Today we’re counting down to what may be the biggest day in the entire history of SpaceX — and possibly one of the most momentous occasions in recent spaceflight history. Today SpaceX is launching the Falcon Heavy, a big step toward manned space travel, including ultimately sending a manned crew to Mars. If all goes well, today’s launch will carry Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster into a heliocentric orbit near Mars and beyond. As SpaceX explains: “Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.” Musk has said that the Falcon Heavy has a 50-50 chance of success today. To find out exactly how long it is until the launch window begins, see the countdown timer below or keep reading for additional sources. You can also watch a live stream of the launch in the video above. Note: the countdown timer below is timed for 3:45 p.m. Eastern, per the latest update from the Kennedy Space Center. The timer below may not be correct down to the second (it’s a few seconds ahead of the actual launch time.) It will give you a general idea, but the live stream above is the best “countdown” source as we get closer to launch.
UPDATE: The launch was delayed until 3:45 p.m. Eastern, and weather and winds will be evaluated again in 20 minutes, according to the Kennedy Space Center. The launch was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, but then it was delayed until 2:20 p.m. due to upper level wind shear, and later delayed to 3:05 and then 3:10 p.m. The launch window lasts until 4 p.m. Are you looking for a countdown to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch? Then you’ve come to the right place. If the countdown timer above stops working, you still have more sources to try. To find out exactly how long it is until the launch takes place, visit the Falcon Heavy Launch countdown timer here. If that countdown timer isn’t to your liking, then try the one that’s here.
By the way, the Tesla Roadster isn’t being sent straight to Mars. It’s being put in an orbit around the sun that will put it close to Mars at different points in time. Here’s a video below, featuring one space enthusiast’s best educated guess on where the Tesla Roadster will be at different points in time if everything goes according to plan. This was created by Redditor meithan and isn’t official to SpaceX, but does give you an idea about why the Tesla Roadster isn’t going directly to Mars.
Here’s the mission timeline for today’s launch:
COUNTDOWN in Hour/Min/Sec Events before launch
- 01:28:00 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
- 01:25:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
- 00:45:00 LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
- 00:07:00 Falcon Heavy begins engine chill prior to launch
- 00:01:00 Flight computer commanded to begin final prelaunch checks
- 00:01:00 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
- 00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
- 00:00:05 Engine controller commands side booster engine ignition sequence to start
- 00:00:03 Engine controller commands center core engine ignition sequence to start
- 00:00:00 Falcon Heavy liftoff
LAUNCH, LANDINGS AND ORBITAL INSERTION Hour/Min/Sec Events after launch
- 00:01:06 Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
- 00:02:29 Booster engine cutoff (BECO)
- 00:02:33 Side cores separate from center core
- 00:02:50 Side cores begin boostback burn
- 00:03:04Center core engine shutdown/main engine cutoff (MECO)
- 00:03:07 Center core and 2nd stage separate
- 00:03:15 2nd stage engine starts
- 00:03:24 Center core begins boostback burn
- 00:03:49 Fairing deployment
- 00:06:41 Side cores begin entry burn
- 00:06:47 Center core begins entry burn
- 00:07:58 Side core landings
- 00:08:19 Center core landing
- 00:08:31 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
- 00:28:22 2nd stage engine restarts
- 00:28:52 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
- Mission continues on an experimental long coast and third stage two burn to target a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.