The Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket in current operation, will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, later today in what will be its first-ever commercial mission. The launch window for the SpaceX leviathan runs from 6:36 p.m. to 8.35 p.m. ET/3:36 p.m. to 5:35 p.m. PT on Wednesday, April 10. The flight will be livestreamed on SpaceX’s YouTube channel.
This will be Falcon Heavy’s second-ever flight after a maiden flight 13 months ago in early 2018. On that flight, it memorably carried the Tesla Roadster belonging to SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk out of Earth’s atmosphere and into space. This latest launch was originally set for Tuesday, April 9, although it was delayed due to bad weather. Current forecasts suggest that today’s weather conditions will prove suitable for launch.
For this flight, Falcon Heavy’s cargo will be a little more sensible (but less meme-able) in nature. As with many of SpaceX’s previous missions, the Falcon Heavy will be used to ferry a communications satellite. In this case, it is the Arabsat-6A communications satellite that was built by Lockheed Martin. Once in orbit, it will be used to provide television, internet, and phone services in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. This satellite boasts several impressive innovations in its own right, including a lighter but more powerful solar array and more.
Provided that all goes according to plan, this will be a historic day for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which tips the scale at a hefty 54 metric tons (119,000 pounds) and generates more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff (the equivalent of 18 separate 474 aircraft). It is the second biggest rocket in history, trailing only the Saturn V rocket, which last took to the sky in 1973. After the Falcon Heavy, today’s biggest rival of the Falcon Heavy is the Delta IV Heavy, which has an operational payload of less than half than of SpaceX’s creation.
A commercial launch for Falcon Heavy is something many have been dreaming about since Elon Musk first described the rocket in 2005. It’s also something which seemed like it would never happen during the countless delays which got us to this point.