Elon Musk’s SpaceX readies first Falcon Heavy launch for paying customer

It also carries the Falcon Heavy's first commercial payload - the ArabSat 6A communications satellite for the Saudi Arabia company of the same name. The U.S. Air Force also chose Falcon Heavy for STP-2, its Space Test Program 2 mission.

"Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars".

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch, which has been delayed twice this week, is set for Wednesday evening in Cape Canaveral, Fla., another potential milestone for the company and the US commercial space industry. The true test will happen tomorrow, if Falcon Heavy cannot only launch but also land its three boosters. The Roadster and its dummy space suited pilot named "Starman" are now headed for the asteroid belt. The launch window lasts until 8:32 PM EDT, so there's some wiggle room if the weather is less than ideal.

Thousands of people came to SpaceX's launch site in Florida to watch the spectacle. The boosters can then be refurbished and used again, which SpaceX says drastically reduces the cost of spaceflight. But the middle booster missed a seaborne platform it was created to land on, and instead splashed into the ocean. After booster separation, the two side boosters will attempt to land at SpaceX's two landing zones at Cape Canaveral Air Force base in Florida. SpaceX is expected to attempt to land all three this week.

SpaceX's payload for this mission is a high-capacity telecommunications satellite known as Arabsat-6A, which will deliver radio, Internet, television and mobile access to customers in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Lockheed Martin built the satellite, along with a second one, for Arabsat as part of a batch of contracts worth $650 million.

That was back when SpaceX was still expected to test Falcon Heavy later that same year.

SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, set a company record a year ago with 21 launches for customers.

Falcon Heavy Flight 2 is made even more exciting by the fact that both of its Block 5 side boosters will be instrumental to a planned third launch of the SpaceX rocket as few as two months later.

Though Falcon Heavy's inaugural launch ultimately went off without a hitch, SpaceX will now have to repeat that success with the added risk of carrying a multimillion dollar satellite. Altogether, Falcon Heavy likely weighs upwards of 80,000 kg (175,000 lb) empty and more than 1,420 metric tons (3,125,000 lb) when fully fueled.

It consists of the equivalent of three Falcon 9 rockets combined, tripling its thrust. Falcon Heavy only has five missions on its manifest so far.

  • Essie Rivera