4 pm ET Sunday Update: After preparations for a Saturday attempt ran late, SpaceX decided to wait until Sunday evening, at 5:56 p.m. ET (22:56 UTC), to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket. However, the triple-core booster is currently scheduled to launch on time thanks to favorable weather conditions in Florida and the rocket.
You can watch live coverage of the twilight launch attempt starting roughly ten minutes before the launch window begins.
Original post: In February 2018, the enormous Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched for the first time after nearly five years of development. But only three further flights of SpaceX’s heavy-lift rocket have been made since then.
Why? It’s partially due to the fact that there isn’t really much demand for a heavy-lift rocket. Another reason is that SpaceX has significantly improved the performance of its Falcon 9 rocket, which now has the ability to carry out many of the missions that were originally intended for the Falcon Heavy. However, the lack of prepared payloads for the new rocket, particularly from the US Department of Defense, has been the main cause of the low cadence.
Long Duration Propulsive ESPA-3A, the second cargo, is actually a spacecraft “bus.” Before deploying these vehicles into separate orbits, it will house five different, smaller payloads and supply power and propulsion. A prototype “crypto/interface encryption” satellite that will enable secure space-to-ground communications is one of these five payloads.
According to the program executive officer for Assured Access to Space, Maj. Gen. Stephen Purdy, “this is a complicated mission and fully epitomizes what Assured Access to Space is about, which is why we’re so excited about this forthcoming launch.”
On Tuesday, SpaceX finished a hot fire test of the rocket and proclaimed it to be prepared for takeoff. The rocket will utilize side-mounted boosters that have only made one space flight and a brand-new core stage (as side-mounted boosters on the USSF-44 Falcon Heavy mission that launched on Nov. 1 2022). For a later flight, SpaceX will try once more to retrieve these side boosters at its land-based landing zones. The middle core will be used up.
The launch will take place from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 5:55 PM ET (22:55 UTC). The launch attempt will likely proceed given the excellent weather.
Given that the launch window opens barely 10 minutes after dusk, the timing of this launch is notable. The Falcon Heavy rocket will be launched for the first time at dusk, and it should be visible for hundreds of kilometers down the Florida coast. For Ars, Trevor Mahlmann will be present to offer special perspectives on this substantial launch vehicle.
Future Falcon Heavy flights for this year include the Psyche asteroid mission for NASA in October, the USSF-52 mission for the Space Force in April, a commercial mission for EchoStar in May, and a mission for the satellite communications provider ViaSat in March. As is customary in the launch industry, all of those dates are tentative.