Watch SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket launch on 6th mission April 27 (Image Credit: Space.com)
Updated April 26, 11:40 a.m. EDT: This story was updated to reflect a 24-hour launch delay to April 27.
SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket will launch for the sixth time ever Thursday (April 27), and you can watch the action live.
The Falcon Heavy is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida today at 7:29 p.m. EDT (2329 GMT), carrying two satellites toward distant geostationary orbit.
The primary payload on today’s mission is ViaSat-3 Americas, a 14,000-pound (6,400 kilograms) broadband satellite that will be operated by California-based company Viasat.
The second satellite flying today is Arcturus, a communications craft that will be operated by San Francisco-based Astranis Space Technologies.
“Although it only weighs 300 kg [660 pounds], the mighty communications satellite has the ability to provide data throughput up to 7.5 Gbps for … Alaska and the surrounding region,” EverydayAstronaut.com wrote (opens in new tab) of Arcturus in a description of today’s flight.
The Falcon Heavy consists of three strapped-together first stages of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. The central booster is topped with an upper stage and the payload(s).
Falcon Heavy debuted in February 2018 with a memorable test flight flight that sent SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk‘s red Tesla Roadster into orbit around the sun with Starman, a spacesuit-clad mannequin, at the wheel.
The Falcon Heavy’s three first-stage boosters are designed to be reusable. However, none of the boosters will be recovered on today’s mission, presumably because they won’t have enough fuel left over to maneuver themselves safely back to Earth for a vertical touchdown.
For more than five years, the Falcon Heavy was SpaceX’s most powerful rocket. But the company’s gigantic Starship vehicle took that title with its debut liftoff on April 20, a test flight that reached a maximum altitude of 24 miles (39 kilometers) and ended in a commanded explosion high above the Gulf of Mexico for safety’s sake.
Starship’s 33 first-stage Raptor engines generate 16.7 million tons of thrust at liftoff, according to SpaceX (opens in new tab). That’s more than three times more than the Falcon Heavy produces, and nearly twice as much as the second-place vehicle, NASA’s Space Launch System megarocket.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).