SpaceX is poised for the first test launch Tuesday of its Falcon Heavy, which aims to become the world’s most powerful rocket, capable of ferrying people to the Moon or Mars some day.
“Starman in a Red Roadster,” Musk posted on Instagram Monday, showing the rocket’s payload on a pedestal, aiming skyward.
The blast-off is scheduled for 1:30 pm (1830 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The destination is deep space, into an orbit about the same distance from the Sun as Mars — but not all that close to the Red Planet itself.
Musk has cautioned that the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy may indeed fail.
“Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent,” Musk, said on Twitter in December.
But the test launch could be a game-changer for SpaceX — already a top cargo supplier to the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA — as it seeks to gain a bigger piece of the commercial space market.
The launch is also a milestone in US-based efforts to send astronauts to space, a capacity lost when the US space shuttle program was retired in 2011.
Since then, the world’s astronauts have relied on Russian Soyuz rockets for transport to the International Space Station.