Space fans are excited about November 1st. This is when the most powerful rocket used returns to Kennedy Space Center to launch a classified national security mission for the US Space Force.
Liftoff is scheduled for 9:40 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39-A with a northeast trajectory.
What is Falcon Heavy?
The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world. It was built by SpaceX, a private company led by CEO Elon Musk, as a stepping stone to SpaceX’s future goal of establishing a colony on Mars.
The partially reusable rocket is 230 feet tall and contains an impressive 27 engines. Its three thrusters can produce 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust. That’s the equivalent of about eighteen 747s.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is basically a combination of three Falcon 9 rockets.
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What are boosters?
Boosters are also rockets. They run in parallel with the main engines for the first few minutes of a flight to provide the extra thrust needed to escape Earth’s gravitational pull. Shortly after liftoff, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters separate and return to earth, landing to be reused on future missions.
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These powerful boosters produce sonic booms.
As the rocket boosters come down, they break the sound barrier, sending shock waves – or sonic booms – throughout the area. Depending on atmospheric conditions, the sound of thunder, sometimes window slamming, can be heard and felt for miles around.
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Why is it called Falcon Heavy?
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk is a known science fiction fan, so it’s no surprise he named his Falcon series of rockets after the Millennium Falcon in the “Star Wars” movies. The Falcon Heavy is named for its heavy payload capabilities. Falcon 9 refers to the nine engines that power its first stage.
Remember the star man?
Falcon Heavy made its first test flight on February 6, 2018, and its payload included a 2008 Tesla roadster with its spacesuit-wearing dummy named Starman in the driver’s seat.
Video of Starman apparently walking past the moon, listening to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” has gone viral.
Starman is still out there in the solar system. It has completed more than 3 orbits around the Sun since its launch, according to whereisroadster.com. The vehicle has traveled enough distance to cover all roads in the world 59.5 times, as of October 28, 2022.
What is Falcon Heavy for?
This type of rocket is generally reserved for very large or heavy payloads or payloads intended for extremely remote locations from Earth. His last mission is classified. All we know is that it will carry multiple Space Force payloads.
Are there other similar rockets?
Yes, the concept of heavy rockets is not new.
The space shuttle was a heavy lift rocket and there are several heavy lift launch vehicles in the world. NASA has its Space Launch System, dubbed SLS. United Launch Alliance has Delta IV Heavy and there’s the European version, Ariane 5 from Arianespace – soon to be retired for newer, more robust designs. China has the Long March 5 and Russia has the Proton-M. Several other heavy rockets are under development.
What stands out about the Flacon Heavy is that it can lift more than twice the payload (141,000 pounds) of the Delta IV Heavy.
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How many times has Falcon Heavy been launched
The November mission will mark only the rocket’s fourth flight.
Falcon Heavy’s test flight with Starman launched on February 6, 2018. The maiden flight successfully landed two side thrusters simultaneously at Cape Canaveral. A third booster failed to land on a platform in the ocean.
On its second flight on April 11, 2019, SpaceX successfully landed all three boosters.
Its third launch was in June 2019. This mission was for the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 mission. Twenty-four satellites were on board, including four NASA payloads.
Payload readiness issues resulting in years-long delays have been the main bane of Falcon Heavy missions. SpaceX expected at least two Falcon Heavy missions in 2021 – a national security payload, USSF-67, and NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, which will study asteroids.
NASA has contracted at least three other Falcon Heavy missions. These include parts from the Gateway lunar outpost, the Europa Clipper which will study one of Jupiter’s moons, and the Nancy Grace Roman space telescope.
Over the next few years, however, Falcon Heavy launch activity can be expected to increase, although not as drastically as Falcon 9 launches.
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How much does it cost to launch Falcon Heavy?
The launch cost has recently increased. The cost to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket will now be $97 million, up from $90 million previously. The services page on SpaceX.com notes that price adjustments were made in March 2022 “to account for excessive levels of inflation. Missions purchased in 2022 but flown beyond 2023 may be subject to additional adjustments due to inflation”.
Who can see a Falcon Heavy launch?
The best views for a launch are anywhere on the Space Coast. But neighboring counties, Volusia to the north and Indian River County to the south, usually have a view of Space Coast rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center.
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