SpaceX Falcon Heavy will launch the NOAA satellite

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It’s time to bring out the big engines. Those on the Space Coast will be nearby to enjoy it.

Not one, but three Falcon 9 first-stage rockets that make up Falcon Heavy are tentatively scheduled to explode in the skies of Florida side by side this week to carry a weather satellite into orbit.

It’s been a long time since Florida has seen this sight: two Falcon 9 planes supporting the main rocket tasked with carrying the second stage and payload into space. The Falcon Heavy rocket last rose to the skies of Florida in late December from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A, carrying the Space Force’s secret spaceplane known as the X-37B. The only other similar launch since then was the three-core ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket, which carried a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office in April from Cape Canaveral.

Why is Falcon Heavy needed for this launch?

A larger payload requires more power, and as NOAA and NASA prepare to launch the GOES-U weather satellite on Tuesday, June 25, they needed a larger rocket. The size of the satellite is similar to a small school bus, so one of the heaviest lifting rockets will be used. Enter the Falcon Heavy.

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SpaceX Space Coast rockets: Falcon Heavy vs Falcon 9

Simply put, the Falcon Heavy is three first stages of Falcon 9 rockets – which together give three times the lift. The Falcon 9 center is fully loaded with the rocket’s second stage and the payload above it. The payload, in this case a NOAA satellite, is encased in a shell to protect it on its way into space.

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By comparison, the Falcon 9 rocket that launches Starlink missions is one rocket. Only one of these single rockets has a turret height of 229.6 feet with the second stage and a diameter of 12 feet.

With three Falcon 9 rockets, the Falcon Heavy monster stands at the same height. However, it is much wider, giving it a width of 39.9 feet, which is equivalent to roughly three cars parked bumper to bumper.

According to SpaceX, the Falcon Heavy has made nine launches, 17 booster landings, and 14 booster re-flights.

The first successful Falcon Heavy took to the skies in February 2018, carrying a red Tesla Roadster as its payload, along with a mannequin dubbed “Starman” — which was adorned with a SpaceX spacesuit.

Falcon Heavy thrust: How powerful is this rocket?

Three Falcon 9 rockets – each containing nine Merlin power engines – give the Falcon Heavy the power of 27 Merlin engines at liftoff. Each of these 27 engines provides 190,000 pounds of thrust. According to SpaceX, this force provides a total thrust of five million pounds.

SpaceX says the Falcon Heavy can lift a weight similar to a 737, along with all the fuel, cargo and passengers, and put that weight into orbit.

Space X Falcon heavy booster landing

SpaceX will recover Falcon 9 boosters. If they follow previous flight procedures, the two boosters will land at the landing site at Cape Canaveral, creating a double sonic boom. If SpaceX continues the routine of previous Falcon Heavy flights, the Falcon 9’s core will disintegrate over the ocean after it completes its mission.

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Landing the three boosters proved to be a difficult task. While a core booster landed on a drone in the Atlantic Ocean in 2019, SpaceX was unsuccessful in returning it to port.

Get ready for Falcon’s heavy sonic booms

When the two boosters touch down at SpaceX Landing Sites 1 and 2 on the Cape Canaveral coast, two sonic booms will be heard on the Space Coast. When the boosters return to Earth, they move faster than the speed of sound. This in turn breaks the sound barrier, producing a sound similar to a loud clap of thunder.

The sonic booms will come when the boosters actually land, which can sound confusing. Physics explains this situation simply: light travels faster than sound. The returning boosters will be seen before the sonic boom is heard.

It can be an amazing sight, especially if no one has ever seen it before, as the boosters appear to land silently before a loud, ground-shaking sound is heard.

When does SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch?

On Tuesday, weather permitting on the Space Coast, the Falcon Heavy will lift off from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A, carrying the NOAA/NASA GOES-U satellite into orbit.

GOES-U is NOAA’s newest weather satellite, which promises to continue tracking hurricanes. Weather monitoring satellites, like the GOES series, are important for locations that experience these extreme weather events – like Florida.

GOES-U will provide valuable observation from above – to monitor hurricanes as they form. “We know about them thanks to the GOES satellites. They sit above the equator about 22,000 miles above Earth and are constantly watching,” NOAA program scientist Dan Lindsay told FLORIDA TODAY.

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Be sure to follow the FLORIDA TODAY Space team for the latest updates from the Space Coast.

Brooke Edwards is a satellite correspondent for Florida Today. Call her on [email protected] Or on the tenth: @prokovstars.

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