SpaceX’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, has been postponed for the fourth consecutive day due to various technical and weather issues. The rocket was scheduled to launch the Jupiter 3 satellite for Hughes Network Systems on Wednesday night, but the countdown was aborted in the final minute.
The Falcon Heavy is a reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle that consists of three Falcon 9 boosters strapped together. It can lift more than 140,000 pounds (63,500 kilograms) to low Earth orbit, making it the most capable rocket in operation today. The rocket made its debut in February 2018, when it launched a Tesla Roadster into orbit with a dummy driver named Starman. Since then, it has flown six missions, including three for the U.S. Space Force and one for NASA.
Why was the launch scrubbed?
According to SpaceX, the launch was scrubbed “due to a violation of abort criteria”. The company did not specify what the exact issue was, but it said that the vehicle and payload were in good health. SpaceX also said that it was working towards another launch attempt on Friday, July 28, with a backup opportunity on Saturday, July 29. The launch window opens at 11:04 p.m. EDT (0304 GMT) and lasts for 99 minutes.
The launch was previously delayed on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday due to various reasons, including weather, range safety, and vehicle checkouts. The weather forecast for Friday night is 65% favorable, according to the 45th Weather Squadron.
What is the Jupiter 3 satellite?
The Jupiter 3 satellite, also known as EchoStar XXIV, is a high-throughput communications satellite that will provide broadband internet services to customers in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The satellite, built by Maxar Technologies, has a mass of about 14,500 pounds (6,600 kilograms) and a lifespan of 15 years. It will operate in the Ka-band frequency and deliver data speeds of up to 500 megabits per second.
The satellite is part of Hughes Network Systems’ Jupiter system, which currently consists of two satellites in orbit and more than 1.5 million terminals on the ground. Hughes Network Systems is a subsidiary of EchoStar Corporation, a global provider of satellite and video delivery solutions.
What will happen after the launch?
After the launch, the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters will separate from the center core and return to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The center core will continue to fly and attempt to land on SpaceX’s drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean. The landing of the boosters will create sonic booms that may be heard across Central Florida.
The Jupiter 3 satellite will be deployed into a geostationary transfer orbit about 34 minutes after liftoff. The satellite will then use its own propulsion system to reach its final geostationary orbit, where it will circle the Earth at a fixed position above the equator.
The launch of the Jupiter 3 mission will be the seventh flight of the Falcon Heavy and the 24th launch of the year for SpaceX. The company has a busy schedule ahead, with several missions planned for the rest of the year, including the first all-civilian orbital flight, the first lunar lander for NASA, and the first operational flight of the Starship vehicle.