Coming up: First night launch for Falcon Heavy

SpaceX rocket to launch DoD mission, including NASA, NOAA payloads

Pictured: Falcon Heavy’s 27 Merlin engines and three first-stage boosters. The engines generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. (Image credit: SpaceX)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A NASA spacecraft with “green propellant” will launch on the third flight for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral as soon as June 24.

SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force are targeting June 24 at 11:30 p.m. to launch Falcon Heavy from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. 

This will be the first nighttime launch for Falcon Heavy, and the aerial ballot associated with the booster return could be a beautiful sight if the weather conditions are right.

NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission, or GPIM, with clean propellant, is one for four payloads for the space agency ride-sharing to orbit with the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2, which includes about 20 satellites from government and research institutions.

"We are increasingly reliant on satellites for communications, for monitoring weather and conditions on Earth and for exploration of the universe," NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate associate administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a news release. "It's important that we develop technology that increases protections for launch personnel and the environment, and that has the potential to reduce costs."

The alternative fuel is expected to make fueling the spacecraft faster, safer and less expensive.

Officials with the space agency said the technology on STP-2 will advance future human exploration back to the moon, and later, to Mars.

This will be the first U.S. government launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket.

The powerful rocket generates more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff using 27 Merlin engines. Falcon Heavy is capable of launching a 737 jetliner, with passengers and their luggage, into orbit, according to SpaceX.

The rocket has three boosters that can be recovered and reflown. The two side cores land back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the center booster lands on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket booster landings are preceded by several loud sonic booms as the rocket boosters break the sound barrier while returning for touchdown.

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