Return of the Falcon Heavy: SpaceX will attempt second launch of world’s current most powerful rocket next month when it will deliver a satellite to orbit for its first commercial mission
- Kennedy Space Center has confirmed Falcon Heavy flight is planned for April
- Tentative schedule suggests it will test fire March 31, with launch around Apr 7
- It will be Falcon Heavy’s second-ever flight, and its first commercial mission
Fourteen months after blasting off for the first time to become the most powerful rocket in use today, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy will take to the skies again in April to complete another critical milestone.
The three-core rocket is slated to launch Lockheed Martin’s Arabsat 6A communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida next month.
A tentative schedule suggests Falcon Heavy could run a static test fire as soon as March 31, followed by a launch window that opens April 7.
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Fourteen months after blasting off for the first time to become the most powerful rocket in use today, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy will take to the skies again in April to complete another critical milestone
FALCON HEAVY: SPECS
Height: 70 meters (229.6 feet)
Re-usable Cores: Three
Payload to LEO: 63,800kg (140,660 lb)
Payload to Mars: 16,800kg (37,040 lb)
Total width: 12.2m (39.9 ft)
Mass: 1,420,788kg (3,125,735 lb)
Total thrust at lift-off: 22,819 kilonewtons (5.13 million pounds)
The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) confirmed the plans in a statement today.
For now, the exact date of launch remains to be determined (TBD), though SpaceX is targeting early April.
‘A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the Arabsat 6A communications satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, from Kennedy Space Center,’ KSC said.
‘The satellite will deliver television, internet and mobile phone services to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
‘Arabsat-6A is part of the two-satellite Arabsat-6G program for Arabsat.’
The launch will be the Falcon Heavy’s first commercial mission, marking an important step forward for its potential use in the future.
Falcon Heavy launched for the first time last year, on February 6 following roughly five years of setbacks.
The rocket boasts three reusable cores, each containing nine Merlin engines for a whopping total of 27.
This gives it a total thrust of 2,500 tons – or the equivalent of 18 Boeing 747 aircraft at full throttle.
Falcon Heavy launched for the first time last year, on February 6 following roughly five years of setbacks. It carried a red Tesla Roadster with a dummy in the driver’s seat
While it isn’t more powerful than NASA’s Saturn V rocket, which took its last flight in 1973, SpaceX’s heavy-lift rocket is the most powerful currently in operation.
The upcoming test is especially crucial as it follows the recent news that NASA will not be using its own heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System, for its upcoming EM-1 mission, slated to launch in 2020.
Instead, the space agency says it will be relying on a private company to get its Orion craft and European Support Module to lunar orbit.
While the space agency has not yet named a company, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is a main contender alongside only United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV.
A livestream of Starman’s journey showed incredible views of the dummy traveling through space following the launch
‘We need to consider all options,’ NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said earlier this month.
‘Some of those options would include launching the Orion crew capsule and the European Service Module on a commercial rocket.
‘There are opportunities to utilize commercial capabilities to put the Orion crew capsule and the European Service Module in orbit around the moon by June of 2020, which was our originally stated objective.’
HOW DOES SPACEX’S FALCON HEAVY ROCKET COMPARE TO NASA’S SATURN V, WHICH BROUGHT MAN TO THE MOON?
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, which successfully completed its first test flight today, is set to be the largest operational rocket in the world.
According to the firm, only the Saturn V moon rocket, which was used to send humans to the moon for the Apollo missions, has delivered more payload to orbit.
NASA’s Saturn V, which last flew in 1973, stood 111 meters tall (363 feet) tall.
When fully fuelled, it weighed 2.8 million kilograms (6.2 million pounds) – the weight of about 400 elephants.
It generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust at launch.
The Falcon Heavy, on the other hand, uses three cores – each equipped with 9 engines for a total of 27 Merlin engines.
Together, these generate 5.13 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.
The rocket stands 224 feet tall, and weighs 140,660 lbs.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy (left) is now said the be the most powerful operational rocket. It has only been surpassed by NASA’s Saturn V (right), which ceased operations in the 1970s