Science

Watch SpaceX's Falcon Heavy blast off for its first commercial launch

Watch SpaceX's Falcon Heavy blast off for its first commercial launch

And when SpaceX launches its Falcon Heavy for the second time on Wednesday, that fact will perhaps be clearer than ever.

Falcon Heavy's 27 Merlin engines can be clearly seen in this photo taken inside the launch pad hangar.

For Elon Musk's space transportation company, this is a chance to prove that its most important rocket is capable of helping it fulfill its most important missions.

The rocket will carry the Arabsat 6A, a commericial communications satellite for Saudi Arabia.

For SpaceX, the addition of the large and reusable Falcon Heavy to its launch business gives the company the ability to bid on heavier payloads than it can with the smaller Falcon 9 rocket, opening up the market for big commercial satellites launches and national security missions.

"Now targeting Falcon Heavy launch of Arabsat-6A on Wednesday, April 10 - weather forecast improves to 80% favorable", SpaceX tweeted in an update on 9 April.

After launch and first stage separation, Falcon Heavy's two side boosters will attempt to land back at SpaceX's Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, while the center core will attempt to land on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

There also won't likely be a technical webcast this time, as SpaceX does not seem to be doing those as often anymore.

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The stakes were high when the Falcon Heavy lifted off for the first time in February 2018.

A year after launching a Tesla roadster into deep space, a second SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket was hauled to the pad and erected Wednesday, setting the stage for an early evening launch to boost a heavyweight Saudi communications satellite into orbit.

Tonight's 117-minute-long launch window opens at 6:35 p.m. and with clear skies, the launch should be visible across much of Florida.

At the time of its launch, SpaceX chief Elon Musk said he wasn't sure how the start would go or whether it would be successful. The U.S. Air Force also chose Falcon Heavy for STP-2, its Space Test Program 2 mission.

More recently, the Falcon Heavy rocket has entered the conversation for human exploration.

The potential market should only increase as Falcon Heavy demonstrates more success. But before that can happen, plenty more work needs to be done. The SpaceX launch window is expected to last around two hours.

Any glitch in the Falcon Heavy's track record could cause a wrinkle in SpaceX's Mars plans.

None of this means you shouldn't bet on SpaceX. Then again, that's no different from every other launch.


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