SpaceX is now aiming to launch its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket for the sixth time ever on Sunday (April 30) after a first attempt ended in an abort, and you can watch the action live.
The Falcon Heavy is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:29 p.m. EDT (2329 GMT) , carrying three satellites toward distant geostationary orbit, after days of delay due to weather. A launch on attempt on April 28 ended in an abort 59 seconds before liftoff.
The primary payload on Sunday’s mission is ViaSat-3 Americas, a 14,000-pound (6,400 kilograms) broadband satellite that will be operated by California-based company Viasat.
The second satellite flying Sunday is Arcturus, a communications craft that will be operated by San Francisco-based Astranis Space Technologies.
“Although it only weighs 300 kg [660 pounds], the mighty communications satellite has the ability to provide data throughput up to 7.5 Gbps for … Alaska and the surrounding region,” EverydayAstronaut.com wrote(opens in new tab) of Arcturus in a description of today’s flight.
The third payload is GS-1, a cubesat that will be operated by Washington-based Gravity Space. GS-1’s primary mission involves providing communications for Internet of Things applications, though it will do some other things in orbit as well.
“The spacecraft is also designed to provide orbital slot reservation services (BIU) around the geosynchronous arc. The spacecraft features three wideband frequency bands,” Gravity Space wrote in a description of the satellite(opens in new tab). “The spacecraft will also carry an imaging system capable of imaging both the Earth and spatial bodies, as well as an experimental rendezvous and docking payload.”
The Falcon Heavy consists of three strapped-together first stages of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. The central booster is topped with an upper stage and the payload(s).
Falcon Heavy debuted in February 2018 with a memorable test flight flight that sent SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster into orbit around the sun with Starman, a spacesuit-clad mannequin, at the wheel.
The burly rocket has flown four more times since then, most recently in January of this year, when it launched the classified USSF-67 mission for the U.S. Space Force.
The Falcon Heavy’s three first-stage boosters are designed to be reusable. However, none of the boosters will be recovered on today’s mission, presumably because they won’t have enough fuel left over to maneuver themselves safely back to Earth for a vertical touchdown.
For more than five years, the Falcon Heavy was SpaceX’s most powerful rocket. But the company’s gigantic Starship vehicle took that title with its debut liftoff on April 20, a test flight that reached a maximum altitude of 24 miles (39 kilometers) and ended in a commanded explosion high above the Gulf of Mexico for safety’s sake.
Starship’s 33 first-stage Raptor engines generate 16.7 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, according to SpaceX(opens in new tab). That’s more than three times more than the Falcon Heavy produces, and nearly twice as much as the second-place vehicle, NASA’s Space Launch System megarocket.
Friday’s planned launch has been delayed several times by bad weather. An attempt was called off on Thursday (April 27), for example, as weather officials issued tornado warnings(opens in new tab) for Florida’s Space Coast.