SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch from Kennedy Space Center


Check back for the FLORIDA TODAY Space Team's live launch updates on this page, starting about 90 minutes before the launch window opens.

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Welcome to FLORIDA TODAY's space team's live coverage of tonight's SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch — followed less than three hours later by the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch.

SpaceX is targeting 8:07 PM EDT to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on the national security mission USSF-52, lifting the Space Force's X-37B robotic spaceplane into orbit on its seventh classified mission.

The Falcon Heavy's dual side boosters will generate sonic booms by targeting landings at SpaceX's Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Then at 11:01 p.m., SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 23 Starlink internet satellites into low Earth orbit. The second launch will take place from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

No local spikes are expected during this task. Instead, the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage booster will aim to land on a drone ship at sea.

When SpaceX's live webcast hosted on X (formerly Twitter) becomes available approximately 15 minutes before Falcon Heavy launch, it will be posted at the top of this page.

Update 7:45 p.m.: At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, hundreds of launch spectators — many tucked into coat pockets to stay warm in 58-degree evening weather — sit in metal bleachers on the North Atlantis Lawn viewing area facing NASA Parkway West.

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After the separation phase, Falcon Heavy's two side boosters are scheduled to descend and land 8 minutes, 24 seconds after liftoff in Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, SpaceX said.

“Now you guys, you're going to look at this and say, 'This is CGI. This is all fake — and you're going to look at it with your own eyes,'” Delaware North spokesman Bill Schaeffer told the crowd over the loudspeakers. .

“But you'll hear a sonic boom. You'll hear the engine roar. This is beautiful weather for this. And God willing, we'll be able to have a spectacular launch. About 8 1/2 minutes into the flight, they're going to land,” Schaefer said. “You will be amazed.”

Update 7:28 p.m.: SpaceX crews are now fueling the Falcon Heavy's first stage with rocket kerosene and liquid oxygen at pad 39A, visual cues indicate.

Update 7:13 p.m.: SpaceX just announced: “All systems look good and the weather is 90% suitable for tonight's Falcon Heavy launch of USSF-52.”

This represents an 80% upgrade to the “lift-to-launch” odds cited in the 45th Space Force Weather Squadron's forecast, which was released on Wednesday.

Update 6:55 p.m.: Here are the key milestones on the schedule for tonight's upcoming Falcon Heavy launch:

53 minutes: SpaceX's launch director checks the “launch” of propellant loading.
50 minutes: The first stage begins with loading the kerosene used in the rockets.
45 minutes: The first stage of liquid oxygen loading begins.
35 minutes: The second stage of loading the kerosene used in the rockets begins.
18½ minutes: The second stage of liquid oxygen loading begins.
7 minutes: Falcon Heavy starts engine cooling.
59 seconds: The flight computer ordered the final pre-launch checks to begin.
45 seconds: SpaceX's launch director checks the “go” for the launch.
20 seconds: Fuel tanks pressurize for flight.
6 seconds: The engine control module controls the start of the engine ignition sequence.
0 Seconds: Falcon Heavy takes off.

Update 6:33 p.m.: As a reminder, SpaceX attempted to launch two Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets back-to-back on December 10, but no launch occurred.

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Instead, the crew aborted the Falcon Heavy launch attempt “due to a groundside problem.” Stormy weather developed along the Space Coast for several days leading up to Christmas.

This afternoon, SpaceX officials tweeted two photos of the Falcon Heavy rocket standing on pad 39A.

Update 6:16 p.m.: Viewing tickets sold out earlier today for the upcoming Falcon Heavy launch at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, spokeswoman Rebecca Borgman said.

Viewing tickets went on sale this morning for spots in the complex's Apollo/Saturn V Center, which is accessible by bus and located about 3 miles from Pad 39B. Online ticket sales ended this afternoon for the show at the main visitor complex.

“We always expect an increase in attendance during this holiday week. And of course, the launch reinforces that interest from a consumer standpoint,” Borgman said.

“There's definitely a lot of interest in seeing the launch. It's that kind of bucket list experience for a lot of people who may have been here visiting Orlando or other areas of Central Florida,” she said.

“We've seen people who drove a few hours — two to three hours — to be here hoping to see them. So hopefully we'll have a great lunch tonight and make everyone happy,” she said.

For the latest launch schedule updates from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA's Kennedy Space Center, visit the website floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Rick Neil He is Florida Today's space correspondent (for more of his stories, click here.) Call Neale at 321-242-3638 or [email protected]. Twitter/X: @Rick Neal1

Space is important to us, which is why we work to provide the highest coverage of industry and launch operations in Florida. Such journalism requires time and resources. Please support him by subscribing here.

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