Breaking
May 29, 2024

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Poised for Launch After Weather Delays

AiBot
Written by AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Dec 28, 2023

SpaceX is preparing for another attempt to launch its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket on Thursday evening after multiple weather-related delays. The rocket will carry the U.S. Space Force’s mysterious X-37B spaceplane on a classified mission, adding to the intrigue surrounding the flight.

Lead Up To The Launch

The Falcon Heavy rocket has been on the pad at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A since early December as teams worked to get it ready for flight [1]. The large rocket generates around 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, making it the most powerful operational rocket today [2].

Originally targetting a launch in early December, SpaceX had to push things back due to issues with the satellites the Falcon Heavy will carry as secondary payloads [3]. Additional delays then cropped up due to high altitude winds and technical checks on the second stage [4].

Most recently, SpaceX had to stand down on multiple launch attempts due to unfavorable weather conditions related to turbulence in the upper atmosphere [5]. However, forecasters are now predicting an 80% chance of acceptable weather for Thursday evening’s launch attempt [6].

What’s At Stake

A lot is riding on this launch for both SpaceX and the Space Force. The Falcon Heavy only has two successful missions under its belt so far, compared to over 200 flights of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. More heavyweight missions like this will help prove the vehicle’s reliability [7].

For the Space Force, getting the X-37B launched on time is critical to carrying out its secretive mission objectives. This will be the spaceplane’s sixth flight, building on a decade of successful flights and landings [8]. The longer launch delays stretch out, the harder it is to keep sensitive payloads and plans under wraps.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Quick Facts
Payload Capacity 140,660 lb (63,800 kg) to LEO
Total Thrust at Liftoff 5.1 million lb (23 million N)
Successful Launches 2 out of 5 attempts
First Launch February 2018
Cost Per Launch Est. $90 million

Launch Night Drama

All eyes will be on Cape Canaveral Thursday night as SpaceX works against the clock to get Falcon Heavy and the X-37B off the ground. The 4-hour launch window opens at 8:00 pm EST, with SpaceX targeting liftoff at the very beginning of the window [9].

The launch team at Kennedy Space Center will carefully monitor upper level wind conditions in the hour leading up to 8 pm. If winds exceed safety limits, the countdown will halt and pick back up at the next available launch opportunity. Currently, backup launch windows are available on Friday and Saturday night [10].

Even if winds look good, several other factors have to align perfectly to proceed with launch. SpaceX will watch temperatures, precipitation, cloud cover and other metrics until the final seconds of the countdown [11].

What To Watch For

Moments before ignition, the Strongback structure will swing away from the 230-foot-tall rocket, with white clouds of venting vapor surrounding the vehicle [12].

At T-3 seconds, the 27 Merlin main engines will roar to life with a flash of orange flame. The hold-down clamps will release the 5.1 million pound thrust rocket as it slowly lifts off the pad [13].

Expect a visually spectacular ascent unlike other current rockets. The two side boosters will burn more aggressively, angled outward from the center core stage in a nailed “split the middle” formation [14].

Approximately 2 and a half minutes after liftoff, the twin side boosters will jettison, aiming for near simultaneous booster landings back at Cape Canaveral a few minutes later [15].

What Comes Next

If the Falcon Heavy successfully departs Earth with the X-37B, the rocket will take on a series of national security missions over its months-long flight. The specifics remain highly classified [16].

Back on Earth, SpaceX technicians will turn their attention to the next Falcon Heavy mission – launching a pair of commercial satellites later in 2023 [17]. Proving the rocket’s reliability now will go a long way towards attracting more customers and flight rate.

Eventually, SpaceX hopes to launch Falcon Heavy as often as once per month, leveraging reusable booster technology to lower costs [18]. These missions will help pave the way for future heavy lift rockets like Starship and potentially a Falcon Super Heavy variant [19].

Quotes

“Falcon Heavy allows SpaceX to compete for loads previously out of reach for an affordable price” – Gwynn Shotwell, SpaceX COO

“I encourage the team to keep fighting through the small issues and stay focused on the important mission we have ahead” – General Chance Saltzman, Space Operations Command

Whether Falcon Heavy’s fifth attempt at reaching orbit goes smoothly or not, one thing is for sure – all eyes will be glued to the Florida coast Thursday night.

AiBot

AiBot

Author

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Related Post