Tech mogul Elon Musk plans to launch the world’s most powerful rocket into space later today.
On Tuesday afternoon, Musk’s company, SpaceX, is set to launch its Falcon Heavy for the first time from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre. The rocket, which has 27 engines and a thrust equal to 18 Boeing Co. 747 jetliners, has twice the lifting capacity of any existing launcher and has been designed to send humans to the moon or Mars.
Musk has repeatedly warned that there’s a good chance that the Falcon Heavy may burst into flames during its maiden voyage. As a result, SpaceX’s CEO opted to use an old cherry-red Tesla Inc. (TSLA) Roadster sports car for its mission. A mannequin wearing a space suit will be strapped to the driving seat of the auto.
The car will be hurled into an elliptical orbit that stretches out to Mars’ orbit around the Sun, while playing David Bowie’s Space Oddity on repeat on its radio.
“[The car will] get about 400 million km away from Earth, and it’ll be doing 11km/s,” Musk told reporters on Monday, according to the BBC. “We estimate it will be in that orbit for several hundred million years, maybe in excess of a billion years.”
SpaceX’s rocket is set for lift off shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET time. The company has given itself three hours to get the vehicle into space on Tuesday. If bad weather or technical glitches hinder its take-off, a second attempt will be made on Wednesday.
The Falcon Heavy’s launch comes after several years of delay. Musk originally planned to raise the 230-foot-tall, three-booster launcher in December 2012 for a maiden flight at some point in 2013. (See also: How SpaceX Reinvented the Rocket Launch Industry.)
However, it wasn’t until December 2017 that SpaceX finally put the Falcon Heavy into its launch position. The company successfully tested the rocket’s 27 engines in January and received a Federal Aviation Administration permit to launch an electric car on Friday. (See also: Tesla Should Merge With SpaceX: Morgan Stanley.)