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Showtime for SpaceX’s big new rocket with a sports car on top

SpaceX’s new rocket is set to make its long-awaited first test flight.

The Falcon Heavy rocket is poised to blast off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre on Tuesday afternoon.

Once it soars, it will become the world’s most powerful rocket in use today.

The Heavy is equipped with three boosters and 27 engines designed to provide about 5 million pounds of thrust.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk has put his Tesla Roadster sports car on board.

The cherry-red convertible will have a space-suited dummy at the wheel and David Bowie’s Space Oddity on its soundtrack.

SpaceX New Rocket Launch
The Falcon 9 SpaceX Heavy rocket stands ready for launch (Terry Renna/AP))

High-tech, science fiction-loving maverick Mr Musk – who is also head of the Tesla electric car company – said he wanted to add some dramatic flair.

Usually there are things like steel or concrete slabs or mundane experiments on test flights. SpaceX is targeting a long, oval orbit around the Sun for the car.

On the eve of the launch, Mr Musk said he is at peace with whatever happens, be it a successful test flight or an explosive failure.

SpaceX New Rocket Launch
Photographers set up cameras that will fire remotely to record the launch (John Raoux/AP)

“It’s guaranteed to be exciting, one way or another,” he said on Monday.

Mr Musk said he normally feels “super stressed out” the day before a launch, but “this time I don’t, so that may be a bad sign.”

The hope is that any failure comes far enough into the flight “so we at least learn as much as possible along the way”.

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