Monday, June 24th, 2019
In “the most challenging mission to date“, SpaceX and Elon Musk are scheduled to launch the Falcon Heavy again tonight. Since there are some payloads on board from NASA they will be livestreaming the launch starting at 2am EDT. Below we have embedded the SpaceX livestream link, which goes live at 2:30am EDT, June 25th.
As of this writing, there is a 70% chance the conditions will be favorable for the attempt; if the launch does not take place today, the next window is scheduled for 11:30pm EDT, Tuesday, June 25th
There are quite a few unique facts that make this launch special. It is the third flight for the Falcon Heavy, the first ever to take place at night, which creates a more dramatic viewing experience, and it is the first time that previously used side boosters will be redeployed. The two side boosters being used were flown previously, in April 2019, on the Arabsat-6A mission. And on top of all that, as if it was not enough, the 24 payloads are significant as well.
For example: the Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 will be onboard. A prototype of a popular sci-fi concept – a solar sail to be used for propulsion in space, this is the second iteration of the LightSail to be launched, both created by the Planetary Society.
This version, with a span of approximately 344 square feet and which had a pricetag of seven million dollars to build, will attempt to demonstrate that, using a LightSail, a spacecraft can accelerate and increase it’s distance from earth while in orbit. A successful test of the LightSail would begin to prove or discourage the possibility of using sails for interstellar travel.
In addition to this “Romantic” aspect of the mission, primarily this is a huge challenge for SpaceX, Musk and the Falcon Heavy,indeed, Musk, in a tweet, referred to it as …“our most difficult launch ever“. The STP-2 mission will launch 24 various spacecraft (satellites) into orbit, including the LightSail. It will be, assuming successful, more importantly, a step towards proving the Falcon Heavy’s ability to employ and reuse the side boosters described above, a first, and to observe the performance of it’s multi-burn profile for the rocket’s upper stage. In a quote from the dedicated STP-2 website: “In addition, SMC will use this mission as a pathfinder for the development of mission assurance policies and procedures related to the reuse of launch vehicle boosters.”
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