A massive SpaceX rocket is being prepared for its debut commercial flight on April 7th from Florida’s Cape Canaveral.
The ‘Falcon Heavy’ rocket has 27 Merlin engines (a ‘normal’ Falcon has just 9) and this flight will carry Arabsat’s 6A satellite into orbit. The launch window, subject to weather conditions, opens at 6.36pm EST (22.36pm UTC) from the historic Pad 39A at the Space Centre.
The rocket has flown before, back in February 6 2018 when it famously carried Elon Musk’s own Tesla Roadster open-top sports car, along with a mannequin in a space suit. The rocket has subsequently had some “teething” modifications carried out.
This commercial flight is crucially important for Musk’s SpaceX team given that the US Air Force will want to measure and test every second of the flight – and the next launch – in order to give its approval for future military payloads.
The USAF currently pays the United Launch Alliance a reported $300+ million for each launch of a Delta IV rocket. Musk’s Falcon Heavy will be around one third of that fee, provided he can bring the rocket back to Earth and speedily refurbish the vehicle.