SpaceX Has a Major Falcon Heavy Launch Tonight


SpaceX Falcon Heavy demonstration launch on February 6, 2018.

The spaceflight startup's massive Falcon Heavy rocket will get its first-ever nighttime launch this evening, weather permitting, as it lifts off from launch pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

If successful, it could bolster SpaceX's case to win more Air Force contracts to launch sensitive military satellites.

Coming along for the ride are 24 satellites that are packed into the Falcon Heavy's nose, which each carry very cool payloads and experiments that will be sent into low orbit.

After its maiden test flight and the Arabsat-6A mission, STP-2 will be the third launch for the Falcon Heavy-the "most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two", according to SpaceX. Both side boosters will land at SpaceX's designated landing sites, while the center booster will attempt a landing on SpaceX's drone ship positioned in the ocean. But the new core booster missed an ocean platform, not unexpected for this especially hard mission, SpaceX noted. The complicated delivery pattern also dictated the night-launch window, Air Force officials confirmed before the launch.

In addition to the cremated remains, the OTB satellite, developed by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems and also hosts NASA's Deep Space Atomic Clock. Barely the size of a toaster oven, the clock is meant to help spacecraft navigate by themselves when far from Earth.

Another NASA payload, the Green Propellant Infusion Mission, will test a cleaner, safer and more efficient fuel alternative to the commonly used hydrazine.

An eclectic mix of payloads was packed into the Falcon Heavy's fairing.

The boosters separated safely and the craft began its six-hour mission to deploy the satellites.

But this morning's launch wasn't just about government payloads. The group hopes that this LightSail 2 mission will prove the potential of spacecraft that are propelled by solar radiation pressure. The company has not yet released a date for its next Falcon Heavy flight.