SpaceX performed a static fire of its long-awaited Falcon Heavy rocket Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and Chief Executive Elon Musk expects the rocket to launch in about a week.

Around 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, large plumes of steam began to billow out from what appeared to be the base of the massive rocket, followed by a low rumbling noise, as seen and heard on a Periscope live stream of the test site by Chris Gebhardt, assistant managing editor at space news site

“Falcon Heavy hold-down firing this morning was good,” Musk said on Twitter.

The hold-down test fire, which is intended to evaluate the Falcon Heavy’s 27 engines, was not livestreamed by either SpaceX or NASA. They do not typically broadcast such tests.

On the Periscope live stream Wednesday, recorded from a spot about 4 miles away from the launch pad, onlookers could be heard cheering after the rumbling subsided.

The Falcon Heavy test fire was expected to take place earlier this month but was delayed, in part by the recent federal government shutdown.

The 45th Space Wing, a U.S. Air Force unit stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, said in a statement earlier this week that “due to the shutdown removing key members of the civilian workforce,” it would not be able to support commercial static fires at Kennedy Space Center. The 45th Space Wing said it also would be unable to support launch operations without its civilian workforce.

—Los Angeles Times


Former Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly considering 2020 presidential run

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly considering a presidential run in 2020.

Kerry met with Hussein Agha, an ally of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in London where he touted the idea when discussing the Middle East’s peace process, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday citing Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv.

Kerry, 74, when asked about his age, said he wasn’t much older than President Donald Trump and wouldn’t have a problem. Trump was 70 when he was sworn into office last year.

In 2004, he ran for president as the Democratic nominee but lost to President George W. Bush, who earned his second term, in the election.

Kerry told MSNBC in September he had no plans of running for president.

In the London meeting, Kerry suggested Abbas should “hold on and be strong” because Trump won’t be in the White House much longer.

Kerry even used “derogatory terms” to describe Trump and said Abbas should personally attack the president rather than the U.S., according to the report.

Abbas has been critical of the Trump’s Middle East peace efforts and condemned his decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

—New York Daily News


Florida man flees, leaving children at scene of rollover crash, police say

ORLANDO, Fla. — Police are searching for a man who they say abandoned his two stepdaughters after a crash, leaving one of them injured in the road.

Armando De Dios Cruz caused the rollover accident Sunday in Haines City and fled the scene without checking on the girls, ages 13 and 6, police said, according to WFTS-Tampa Bay.

First responders took the children to a local hospital. Both girls are expected to recover from their injuries.

“How’s THIS for parenting?” the Haines City Police Department posted on Facebook on Tuesday evening along with the hashtag #Parentoftheyear, photos of De Dios Cruz and his wrecked SUV, and a description of the accident.

The charges pending against De Dios Cruz are leaving the scene of a crash with injury and child neglect.

—Orlando Sentinel


And then there was one: Last rival to Egypt’s el-Sissi drops away

CAIRO — The last credible challenger to Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Egypt’s presidential election bowed out on Wednesday, clearing the way for an incumbent who appears more intent on cementing his policies than appeasing any concerns about a fading democracy.

Khaled Ali, a former presidential nominee and constant thorn in the side of the government, said he would not submit his papers to the electoral commission for the March ballot, citing what he described as a pervasive undemocratic climate and the crackdown against other potential candidates.

A day earlier, the military announced it was investigating another potential rival to el-Sissi, Lt. Gen. Sami Annan, on a number of allegations, including “incitement” against the armed forces.

El-Sissi views this election as a “purely routine event,” said Riccardo Fabiani, senior analyst for North Africa with the Eurasia Group. “He knows that he’s under no pressure from abroad to play by the rules, so there’s no incentive domestically or internationally to make this a free and fair election.”

Ali made headlines in Egypt last year by challenging in court a maritime border pact between Egypt and Saudi Arabia touted by the leaders of both countries. He said that many of his campaign workers had been detained before he had even announced his candidacy formally, and now faced charges.

El-Sissi is a career military officer who won the presidency a year after a military-backed popular uprising that ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi from power in 2013. Since then, he has launched a broad crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which backed Morsi, leaving hundreds dead and thousands in jail. The offensive has since been extended to target activists and other dissenters, prompting critics to accuse the president of building a de facto police state.

—Bloomberg News


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