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. After that, SpaceX hopes to land the center stage on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" in the Atlantic Ocean. But Wednesday has a clear forecast with an 80% probability of a launch, so odds are good the mission will proceed.
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. It's a particularly notable one, being Falcon Heavy's second flight ever and the very first commercial launch for the gargantuan launch vehicle.
This time around SpaceX has a paying customer to please. SpaceX aims to pull a more seamless landing when it launches the Arabsat-6A, a 13,200-pound satellite for Arabsat, a Saudi Arabia-based satellite communications company, today. Scores of fans and tourists have flocked to the Florida Space Coast for the event, which will be broadcast live on SpaceX's website.
As with the first launch of the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX will try to safely land the two side rocket boosters back at Cape Canaveral Landing Zones 1 and 2 in Florida. We'll see if they have better luck this time around.
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The launch window had been pegged to open at 6:35 p.m. EDT for 2 hours, but SpaceX said Wednesday afternoon it was targeting liftoff at 8 p.m. and might go a half hour later due to strong upper-level winds.
The first Block 5 version of Falcon Heavy prepares for its launch debut.
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. But the middle booster missed a seaborne platform it was created to land on, and instead splashed into the ocean.
When the rocket flew past year, its two side boosters made synchronized landings on side-by-side ground pads in Florida.
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That was back when SpaceX was still expected to test Falcon Heavy later that same year.
In a departure from past designs, the satellite features thin, flexible solar arrays instead of the rigid panels used on other spacecraft.
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