The world’s most powerful operational rocket is on the launch pad ahead of a scheduled liftoff Tuesday morning (November 1).
SpaceX rolled out its Falcon Heavy rocket to Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday (October 31). If all goes as planned, the vehicle will lift off Tuesday (November 1) at 9:40 a.m. EDT (1340 GMT), sending a handful of payloads aloft for the US Space Force in a mission called USSF. -44.
“Falcon Heavy rolls down the ramp ahead of tomorrow’s targeted launch of USSF-44; weather 90% favorable for liftoff,” SpaceX said via Twitter (opens in a new tab) Monday, in a post that shared a photo of the big 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 yet to raise it to an upright position as of 7:30 p.m. EDT (2330 GMT), as shown by a NASASpaceflight live stream from the site. (opens in a new tab). (The big rocket made the elongated trip.)
The Falcon Heavy consists of three Falcon 9 first stages modified and strapped together. A second stage carrying the payload sits atop the central thruster.
Like the Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy’s first stages are designed to land vertically after takeoff and for future reuse. But on USSF-44, only the two outer boosters will return to Earth in one piece. The core thruster will dive into the sea, its thruster operated by the challenging mission, which will carry its payloads to a distant geostationary orbit.
USSF-44 will be just the fourth Falcon Heavy mission and its first since June 2019. The rocket has plenty of flights on its manifesto; the dry period is mainly due to delivery delays from customer satellites.
This Falcon Heavy has been to Pad 39A before: SpaceX took the rocket out last week to perform a static fire, a routine test that briefly ignites the first stage engines while a vehicle remains anchored to the ground.
The static firing occurred without the USSF-44 payloads atop the rocket. After the test, SpaceX took the rocket back to its hangar to integrate the satellites, about which little is known. (The main payload, a spacecraft called USSF-44, is classified.)
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a 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 a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).