SpaceX to Attempt its Most Challenging Rocket Launches to Date


SpaceX will soon be launching its Falcon Heavy rocket, on June 24, beginning the STP-2 mission.

A closeup of the 27 Falcon Heavy first stage engines firing during the early moments of launch in April. The rocket will carry several payloads for NASA and the Air Force.

The rocket originally was scheduled to lift off from historic launch pad 39A at 11:30 p.m., but launch directors set that back to 2:30 a.m. Tuesday to conduct "additional ground system checkouts".

The side boosters the launch will use previously flew on the mission that saw Arabsat 6A put into orbit in April.

STP-2 provides a unique space access opportunity for DoD and inter-agency science and technology missions that directly enhance the space capabilities of the USA and its allies and partners. The 24 satellites that Falcon Heavy will carry out feature several types of equipment created to facilitate the mission.

This Monday's scheduled Falcon Heavy launch (June 24) is the third of the rocket, following the maiden flight in February 2018 that put a vehicle is space and the second that carried the Arabsat 6A satellite into orbit.

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During tonight's launch - assuming it proceeds during its scheduled launch window - the human remains will be released into orbit aboard one of two dozen satellites the Falcon Heavy is hauling.

The STP-2 payloads are assembled from a host of mission partners including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, DoD research laboratories, and university research projects.

Falcon Heavy on the launch pad. The boosters were refueled and refitted for the upcoming launch. That's because of the range of orbits the satellites need to reach.

The second stage will fire twice more to achieve an orbit with a high point of around 7,455 miles and a low point of about 3,700, in the process changing the tilt of the orbit with respect to the equator.

The latest forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron gives over a 70% chance of overall acceptable launch weather conditions on June 24, 2019.

The wide array of satellites in the payload will contribute to making Monday's planned launch more complex than the traditional mission.