Third Falcon Heavy Launch Blasts 24 Payloads Into Orbit Including a Solar Sail. Doesn’t Quite Stick the Landing

Universe Today | 6/25/2019 | Staff
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In what Elon Musk is calling their “most difficult” mission so far, SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy rocket for the third time. The launch took place at 2:30 am ET Tuesday from a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission was called STP-2, and Universe Today sent a photographer to capture all the action.

This mission was a first for SpaceX in a few ways. The company keeps tweaking its missions to make them better and to make launches more affordable. Not only was STP-2 SpaceX’s first night-time launch, but it was the first time that it reused flight-proven boosters. While this was the first flight for the central booster, the other two boosters were previously used on the Arabsat-6A mission on April 11th.

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Things didn’t go perfectly for SpaceX. While the two side-boosters landed successfully at SpaceX’s landing zones at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, the main booster crashed into the ocean and was destroyed on impact. But due to the complicated mission profile for STP-2, the main booster was travelling very quickly, and that led to problems.

STP-2 had a very interesting payload, featuring some important customers for SpaceX. The Department of Defense, NASA, and the US Air Force all had payloads on board. Among the payloads was the Planetary Society’s LightSail 2, and NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock.

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The mission featured 24 different payloads on 3 different spacecraft, and getting all three to their orbits meant that the mission required three different burns and three different deployment points. This was easily the most complicated mission profile for SpaceX.

The Falcon Heavy STP-2 on the launch pad. Image Credit:

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Rocket launches are always cool. But the Falcon Heavy is currently the world’s most powerful rocket. And a night-time launch meant that in terms of viewing gratification alone, STP-2 was a...
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