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Falcon Heavy finally fires up for the first time

SpaceX lights up the 27 engines that power its next-generation rocket during a test that will pave the way for its first launch.

The world's most powerful rocket thundered to life for the first time at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday -- at least for a few seconds.

After years of delays, the Falcon Heavy from SpaceX was fired up at launch pad 39-A.

Heavy is essentially three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together and topped off by a second stage and payload. The payload atop this particular rocket is a special one: It's SpaceX founder Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla Roadster, which he plans to send jn the direction of Mars if the first demonstration launch of Falcon Heavy goes as planned.

Wednesday's static test-firing helps pave the way for that launch, which Musk has been promising for years now. A lot of his initial timelines tend to slip, but the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad a few years ago contributed to the delayed debut. More recently, the brief government shutdown pushed the static fire test back by two more days.

It's entirely possible that the rocket and the Roadster will never make it out of Earth's atmosphere, as Musk has warned that there's a fair chance the launch will fail and end in a spectacular explosion over the Atlantic Ocean.

If Falcon Heavy successfully launches at some point over the next several weeks as Musk and SpaceX hope, it will become the most powerful rocket to do so since the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon.