The Falcon Heavy rocket is seen in its hangar in Florida before rollout to the launch pad. [credit:
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket will attempt its most technically demanding mission yet on Monday night, with a rideshare flight organized by the U.S. Air Force. Company founder Elon Musk has characterized the mission as “Our most difficult launch ever.”
During this Space Test Program-2 flight, the world’s most powerful operational rocket will attempt to deliver 24 different payloads into three different orbits, resulting in multiple re-lights of the Merlin 1D engine powering the rocket’s second stage.
It is a critical mission for SpaceX and its Falcon Heavy rocket for a few reasons. First of all, this is the first time the Air Force has flown payloads on a Falcon Heavy rocket. And while this mission will not be carrying anything critical to national security—such as large satellites valued at $1 billion or more used for observation, communication, or other purposes to advance the national interest—Air Force officials will be watching closely.