The world’s most powerful operational rocket is on the launch pad ahead of a scheduled launch on Tuesday morning (November 1).
SpaceX fired its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday (October 31). If all goes according to plan, the vehicle will lift off on Tuesday (November 1) at 9:40 a.m. EDT (1340 GMT), sending a handful of payloads for the US Space Force in a mission called USSF-44.
“Falcon Heavy pulls up ramp ahead of tomorrow’s targeted launch of USSF-44 mission. Weather 90% favorable for liftoff.” SpaceX said via Twitter (opens in new tab) on Monday, in a post that shared a photo of the large rocket making the trip to the pad.
Related: Why SpaceX hasn’t flown a Falcon Heavy rocket since 2019
Although the Falcon Heavy is on the pad, SpaceX had not yet lifted it to a vertical position as of 7:30 p.m. EDT (2330 GMT), as seen in a NASASpaceflight live feed of the site (opens in new tab). (The big rocket made the trip lying down.)
The Falcon Heavy consists of three modified, strap-on Falcon 9 first stages. A second payload transfer stage sits on top of the central amplifier.
Like Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy’s first stages are designed to land vertically after liftoff and for future reuse. But in USSF-44, only the two external boosters will return to Earth in one piece. The core booster will be thrust into the sea, its propellant ejected from the challenge mission, which will carry its payloads into distant geostationary orbit.
USSF-44 will be just the fourth Falcon Heavy mission and the first since June 2019. The rocket has several flights on its manifest. the drought is mainly due to delays in the delivery of customer satellites.
This Falcon Heavy has been to Pad 39A before: SpaceX took the rocket out last week to conduct a static fire, a routine test that briefly ignites the first-stage engines while a vehicle remains docked to the ground.
The static fire occurred without the USSF-44 payloads on top of the missile. After the test, SpaceX returned the rocket back to its hangar to integrate the satellites, about which little is known. (The main payload, a starship called USSF-44, is classified.)
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 extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or up Facebook (opens in new tab).