Published: Thu, April 11, 2019
Sci-tech | By Javier West

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy will now fly on Wednesday, hopefully

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy will now fly on Wednesday, hopefully

First and foremost, Falcon Heavy's job is to safely place the Saudi Arabian communications satellite Arabsat 6A into a high-energy geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) more than 35,000 km (~22,000 mi) above Earth's surface.

The rocket is expected to be used primarily for USA military missions such as launching spy satellites.

"Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars".

SpaceX is half a day away from the planned launch debut of Falcon Heavy Block 5, a milestone that will also be the rocket's second launch ever and first mission with a commercial payload.

Falcon Heavy's debut flight previous year attracted massive attention, in part because CEO Elon Musk made a decision to launch his own luxury Tesla Roadsteras the test payload. The Roadster and its dummy space suited pilot named "Starman" are now headed for the asteroid belt. The launch window opens at 6:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday (22:35 UTC) and closes at 8:32 p.m. (00:32 UTC on Thursday). These boosters will later be refurbished and re-used, which SpaceX says drastically reduces the cost of spaceflight.

Upon descent, the three Falcon boosters detach and land separately back on Earth for future missions. On that flight, the Falcon Heavy launched a red Tesla Roadster owned by SpaceX founder Elon Musk and stuck two of its three first-stage booster landings. The first retrieval didn't go so well for the poor old core booster, which missed the landing and plunged into the ocean. SpaceX is expected to attempt to land all three this week.

Lockheed Martin built the satellite, along with a second one, for Arabsat as part of a batch of contracts worth $650 million. With any luck, this will hopefully return SpaceX's East Coast landing zones (LZ-1 and LZ-2) to successful operations after an anomaly in December 2018 caused Falcon 9 B1051 to landing a mile or so offshore. Before the rocket finally launched more than two years later, Musk suggested to several news outlets, including CNN, that the rocket could explode.

After the procedure concluded in the hangar, the rocket was rolled onto the pad for a static test fire ahead of the launch of the Arabsat 6A satellite on April 9.

Musk's casual mentions of a potential explosion spooked Arabsat executives, according to Bloomberg.

In other words, the satellites will be deployed about 34 minutes after launch. Altogether, Falcon Heavy likely weighs upwards of 80,000 kg (175,000 lb) empty and more than 1,420 metric tons (3,125,000 lb) when fully fueled. Falcon Heavy only has five missions on its manifest so far.

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