In Brief

SpaceX Falcon Heavy: weather delays rocket’s second launch

Postponed mission will now get under way this evening. Here’s how to watch it live

SpaceX has postponed the first commercial launch of its most powerful rocket for the second time this week because of the weather. 

The aerospace company confirmed on Twitter that “upper atmospheric wind shear is very high”, which prevented the launch of its Falcon Heavy. 

The rocket is now due to lift off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center this evening when conditions should be better. 

Similar issues prevented the company, headed by Tesla chief Elon Musk, from carrying out the rocket launch on Tuesday. SpaceX rescheduled the launch for Wednesday evening but more weather issues means the mission will now take place tonight at 8.32pm (1.32am Friday UK time).

If conditions allow, Falcon Heavy will carry an Arabsat-6A, a Saudi Arabian communications satellite, into orbit some 22,236 miles above Earth, reports space news site NasaSpaceFlight.com.

Developed by US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin, the six-tonne satellite will provide phone, internet and television coverage across “parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Europe”, the website says.

This week’s launch will be the first of two commercial launches for the Falcon Heavy in 2019. A date for the second mission, which will carry a satellite into orbit for British communications firm Inmarsat, has yet to be announced. 

What is the Falcon Heavy?

The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in SpaceX’s arsenal, as the vehicle consists of three Falcon 9 boosters “strapped together”, says The Verge.

Split across the boosters are 27 Merlin rocket engines. These deliver 5 million pounds of lift-off thrust, which helps the rocket haul up to 63.5 tonnes of cargo into orbit, the tech site says. In terms of storage capacity, it’s beaten only by Saturn V, which sent astronauts to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 70s.

But unlike Saturn V, SpaceX plans to recover all three of Falcon Heavy’s boosters so that they can be used on future missions.

Two of the cores will land back at the Kennedy Space Center shortly after launch, says TechCrunch. The third, which has to travel much further, will land on the company’s autonomous floating landing pad called “Of Course I Still Love You”.

Today’s mission marks the rocket’s first commercial launch, and its second voyage into space since Musk sent his Tesla Roadster electric sports car into orbit aboard the vessel last year, adds the Daily Express

How to watch the launch online

The launch can be watched through the SpaceX YouTube channel for free. The stream is due to go live when the launch window opens at 11.35pm UK time.

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