Hot on the heels of Falcon 9's historic flight, SpaceX chief Elon Musk has revealed on Twitter that Falcon Heavy's first flight is scheduled for late summer this year. He also announced that the company is considering trying to reland and retrieve the rocket's upper stage during the demo, though that's probably much easier said than done. The bigger vehicle is no Falcon 9. It's an entirely different beast that has three cores instead of one -- SpaceX equipped the rocket it's launching this year with two pre-flown boosters -- and will be able to carry twice the cargo it can.
The company says it was "shockingly difficult to go from a single core to a triple-core vehicle." And while it already ironed out most of the issues brought about by using three cores, the demo flight will still be very risky. It's even loading something silly on board for the test, maybe something sillier than the big wheel of cheese it launched to space aboard the Dragon capsule's maiden flight in 2010.
SpaceX has to be able to retrieve parts of Falcon Heavy someday if it wants to fulfill its dream of sending humans to colonize Mars on a reusable spaceship called "Interplanetary Transport System." But for now, it has more attainable goals lined up for the near future, including using more pre-flown boosters, retrieving a Falcon 9's second stage and relaunching a used rocket 24 hours after its first flight.
Falcon Heavy test flight currently scheduled for late summer— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 31, 2017