SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy launch will now take place in 2018

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SpaceX had been planning to launch its huge Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time this year, with a time frame set most recently for sometime in November. Here on the last day of November, we know that’s not happening — but now we also know we won’t see a Falcon Heavy launch before early 2018, at least.

We shouldn’t have to wait that long into next year, however; SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said the company still plans to do a static test fire of its Falcon Heavy rocket, with all 27 Merlin engines used simultaneously, before the end of 2017. And should that proceed without any major issues, it’s possible Falcon Heavy could launch within the opening weeks of 2018, according to Engadget.

This isn’t the first time that SpaceX has pushed back its planned Falcon Heavy debut launch: In fact, its initial proposed test flight was supposed to be in 2013. Delays aren’t uncommon in the space business, however, and Elon Musk’s rosy projections for potential timelines are always a bit overly optimistic.

Musk also cautioned earlier this year that he wasn’t expecting Falcon Heavy’s first flight to go off without a hitch, going so far as to suggest that it likely wouldn’t make it into orbit, or even very high off the ground on the first try. The test is designed as a test, however, and rocket science involves a lot of unpredictable variables that you can only address once you’re testing in real-world launch situations.