SpaceX Falcon Heavy: Why everyone should watch this night launch from Kennedy Space Center


MELBOURNE, Fla. - For the third time ever, on Monday night spectators on the Space Coast will once again get to see the world's most powerful rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center.

The 27 Merlin main engines strapped to SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket will fire to life no earlier than 11:30 p.m. Monday from pad 39A, the opening of a four-hour window.

Here's why everyone should stay up late for this launch:

First night launch for Falcon Heavy

Only having flown two previous times during daylight hours, this will be the first time Falcon Heavy lifts off at night, lighting up the sky for spectators below.

Locations like Port Canaveral and the beach access points offer good opportunities to either photograph the launch and booster landings, or simply to observe.

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Rocket booster landing

Though SpaceX has been landing its first-stage boosters since 2015, Falcon Heavy's dual booster landings are a bit more dazzling to behold. During its inaugural launch in 2018, observers witnessed side-by-side landings of the rocket's two side boosters, marking the first time SpaceX had tried a near-simultaneous landing.

In April, the aerospace company was once again able to land its two side boosters, as well as land its center core booster on the Of Course I Still Love Youdrone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The booster was damaged, however.

This time, SpaceX will once again target an automatic landing of its two side boosters about eight minutes after liftoff at Cape Canaveral, producing sonic booms that will roar through the area. The center core, meanwhile, will attempt to land on the drone ship.

Among most challenging SpaceX launches

The Department of Defense's Space Test Program-2 mission will be one of the most challenging launches for the aerospace company, according to its website.

Conducting four separate burns with Falcon Heavy's second stage, the rocket will deploy 24 satellites into three separate orbits. For context, it's already a hefty feat to deploy one spacecraft into orbit, let alone deploying multiple spacecraft to multiple destinations. The total mission duration is set to last over six hours.

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First defense launch for Falcon Heavy

Monday night's launch will mark the first Falcon Heavy launch for the DOD, an important milestone for the vehicle as it could be used for future national security missions.

The Air Force is also planning on reusing the two side boosters from the Arabsat-6A Falcon Heavy launch last April, making it the first time the Air Force uses previously flown hardware.

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Most powerful rocket flown today

The 230-foot-tall rocket is approximately the height of a 20-story building and generates more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to more than a dozen Boeing 747 aircraft, according to SpaceX.

With the capacity to lift nearly 141,000 pounds into orbit, Falcon Heavy can take more than twice the payload of the next closest vehicle, United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy. Only the Saturn V rocket that took humans to the moon delivered more to orbit.

Follow Antonia Jaramillo on Twitter at @AntoniaJ_11.

Launch Monday

Join for countdown updates and live chat starting at 9:30 p.m. Monday, including live streaming of SpaceX's launch webcast about 30 minutes before liftoff.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: SpaceX Falcon Heavy: Why everyone should watch this night launch from Kennedy Space Center


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