Editor's Note: SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket Thursday night..
A year afterinto deep space, a second was hauled to the pad and erected for blastoff Wednesday. But high winds aloft forced the California rocket builder to delay launch of an Arabsat communications satellite until Thursday evening.
The Falcon Heavy, featuring 27 engines in three Falcon 9 core stages, was mounted atop historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday morning. Liftoff on the company's fourth flight this year was targeted for 6:35 p.m. EDT, the opening of a one-hour 57-minute window.
The countdown was reset for an 8 p.m. liftoff because of high winds aloft and then slipped to 8:32 p.m., the end of the window. But conditions did not improve enough to permit a safe launch and SpaceX scrubbed for the day. Another attempt is targeted for 6:35 p.m. Thursday, weather permitting.
While putting the Arabsat 6A communications satellite into orbit is the primary goal of the 34-minute mission, SpaceX engineers hope to recover the rocket's three Falcon 9 core stages for refurbishment and re-use.
How to watch the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch
- What: Launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket
- Payload: Arabsat 6A communications satellite
- Location: Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
- Date: Thursday, April 11, 2019
- Time: 6:35 p.m. EDT (the launch window closes at 8:31 p.m.)
- Live stream: Watch the launch on CBSN or in the video player at the top of this page.
The two outboard boosters are expected to attempt dramatic side-by-side landings back at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station about eight minutes after launch while the central core stage heads for touchdown on an off-shore drone ship. To date, SpaceX has successfully recovered 35 stages.
Generating more than five million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world. For it's maiden flight in February 2018, the rocket carried a dummy payload — thedubbed "Starman" strapped into the driver's seat.
But for its second flight, it's strictly business. The rocket was purchased to launch the Arabsat 6A communications station for the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat consortium. Built by Lockheed Martin, the Arabsat 6A communications station will provide television, radio, mobile and broadband services across the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
If all goes well, the satellite will be released into an elliptical orbit 24 minutes after liftoff. On-board thrusters will be used from that point to put the craft in the required circular orbit 22,300 miles above the equator where communications stations circle in lockstep with Earth's rotation.