SpaceX’s most powerful rocket, Falcon Heavy, is scheduled for its first nighttime launch on Monday June 24, marking the rocket system’s third flight; however, this one will be a challenging one.
This mission, called STP-2 for the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2, will ferry a couple dozen satellites into orbit, including Lightsail 2, a solar-sail test mission promoted by science star Bill Nye.
“The STP-2 mission will be among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history,” SpaceX said, citing four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits and a total mission duration of over six hours. For comparison, the last Falcon Heavy mission deployed its satellite just 34 minutes after launch.
“This will be our most difficult launch ever,” founder Elon Musk tweeted.
SpaceX will attempt to land the side boosters on ground landing zones, and the center core on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The center core for the previous launch in April landed successfully on the ship, but was a loss due to rough sea conditions. SpaceX hopes to bring it safely home this time.