CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Twenty-seven of SpaceX's Merlin main engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center Friday, paving the way for launch of a three-core Falcon Heavy rocket and commercial communications satellite as soon as Tuesday.
The 12 p.m. test gave SpaceX teams enough data to choose Tuesday as a new launch date with 6:36 p.m. as the target liftoff time. The launch window, if needed, will extend until 8:35 p.m., according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
The Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron is expected to release a forecast for the window as soon as Saturday.
This mission, known as Arabsat 6A, will take a large, heavy communications satellite built by Lockheed Martin to orbit from pad 39A. It marks Falcon Heavy's first operational mission since the demonstration flight last year that captured minds around the world with the Tesla Roadster and "Starman" mannequin.
Shortly after liftoff, Falcon Heavy's two side boosters will perform an aerial ballet, flip around and return to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Landing Zone 1 for tandem landings. The sonic boom-producing landings are typically visible to the public, especially from locations like Port Canaveral and the beaches.
The center core, meanwhile, will burn slightly longer to boost the spacecraft farther, then separate from the second stage and target a landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The booster should return to Port Canaveral a few days later.
Traffic patterns around the spaceport will be changed on launch day to deal with increased traffic, meaning only employees and previous launch-related ticket holders will be able to access the area, including the KSC Visitor Complex. The main entrance on State Road 405 to KSC, State Road 3 on the south end, and State Road 3 on the north end will all be staffed by KSC police and Brevard County Sheriff's Office deputies. Access to the Canaveral National Seashore will be granted until capacity is reached or until 5:30 p.m., whichever comes first.
Rocket: SpaceX Falcon Heavy
Mission: Arabsat 6A communications satellite
Launch Time: 6:36 p.m. ET
Launch Window: 8:35 p.m. ET
Launch Complex: 39A at Kennedy Space Center
Landing: Side boosters at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station; core booster on Of Course I Still Love You drone ship
Weather: Forecast expected soon