SpaceX shows off Falcon Heavy ahead of massive rocket's sixth launch

Both SpaceX's Falcon Heavy and Starship could take to the skies next week in an action-packed few days for Elon Musk's space firm.
Chris Young
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy.
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX / Twitter 

SpaceX showed off its Falcon Heavy rocket ahead of its next launch, scheduled for April 18.

The private space firm, which is also gearing up for the first orbital launch of its massive Starship rocket, will launch a ViaSat-3 broadband communications satellite to orbit aboard Falcon Heavy next week. The mission will take off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

SpaceX prepares for the next Falcon Heavy launch

SpaceX shared images of Falcon Heavy on Twitter, consisting of three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together. The photos include an impressive close-up of the 27 Merlin engines the massive rocket uses to reach orbit.

The ViaSat-3 satellites will be the first of a three-part broadband communications constellation. Falcon Heavy will also lift a small communications satellite called Arcturus next week, operated by California-based Astranis.

Whereas SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket has successfully launched to orbit more than 200 times, Falcon Heavy will only lift off for the sixth time next week.

Falcon Heavy first launched to orbit on February 6, 2018. The massive launch system's first-ever flight famously launched Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster and a mannequin wearing a spacesuit called Starman into space. Just eight minutes after that historic launch, SpaceX landed two boosters simultaneously for the first time at adjacent landing pads at Cape Canaveral.

In November 2022, Falcon Heavy launched again after a three-year hiatus caused mainly by customer delays. Meanwhile, the latest Falcon Heavy flight took to the skies in January this year. The last two launches carried classified payloads for the U.S. Space Force.

SpaceX's Starship will soon be the world's most powerful rocket

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy was the most powerful operational rocket until NASA lifted its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to orbit for its Artemis I Moon mission. SpaceX will likely soon retake the crown, however, with the first orbital launch of Starship, which could take place as soon as next week, on April 20.

Though Falcon Heavy is made up of reusable Falcon 9 boosters, the rocket's boosters don't always come down for a landing. Depending on launch parameters, some or all of the supporters might be discarded in the ocean instead. For next week's mission, YouTuber Everyday Astronaut points out, all three boosters will crash into the ocean shortly after launch.

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