SpaceX is gearing up for its busiest Falcon Heavy megarocket launch yet and now, thanks to the U.S. Air force, we know what the epic rideshare looks like.
When the next SpaceX Falcon heavy launches on Monday (June 24) from NASA's historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the heavy-lift rockets will be carrying 24 different satellites for the Air Force's Space Test Program-2 mission , If you're wondering what two dozens satellites look like inside a Falcon Heavy nose cone, wonder no more.
In a Twitter post Tuesday (June 18), the Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center in charge of the STP-2 mission showed just how 24 satellites are stacked inside the payload fairing.
"The 3,700 kg [8,1
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The STP-2 mission is scheduled to launch sometime during a four-hour window that opens Monday night at 11 : 30 pm EDT (0330 June 25 GMT). It wants to be the third Falcon Heavy launch for SpaceX, but the first to carry more than one satellite at a time.
The first Falcon Heavy mission, carried out in February 2018, is a Tesla roadster owned by SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk and Starman, a mannequin dressed in an official SpaceX spacesuit.
A single massive satellite, the 14,241-pound (6,460 kilograms) Arabsat 6A launches atop SpaceX's second Falcon Heavy on April 11 of this year. Arabsat 6A wants to be reused on the STP-2 mission, SpaceX has said.
The 3700 kg Integrated Payload Stack (IPS) for # STP2 has been completed! Have a look before it blasts off on the first #DoD Falcon Heavy launch! #SMC #SpaceStartsHere pic.twitter.com/sEUUDx5kswJune 18, 2019
The 24 satellites of the STP-2 mission include a diverse group of spacecraft built by NASA, the U.S. Military, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, student teams from universities. They include a NASA atomic clock, a satellite to test "green" spacecraft propellant and the LightSail 2 solar sail for the Planetary Society, among others.
"The STP-2 mission wants to be among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history with four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits, a final propulsive passive maneuver and a total mission duration of over six hours, "SpaceX wrote in a mission description.
SpaceX added that the ability to carry many satellites at once , as well as launching with boosters, are key milestones for the mission.
"The STP-2 multi-manifest (rideshare) launch will demonstrate the capabilities of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch Vehicle and provide critical data supporting certification for future National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions," SpaceX officials said. "In addition, SMC wants to use this mission as a pathfinder for the development of mission assurance policies and procedures related to the reuse of launch vehicle boosters."
SpaceX regularly reuses the first stage boosters of its smaller Falcon 9 rockets, as well NASA cargo to the International Space Station. SpaceX has been steadily developing reusable rocket technology to lower the cost of spaceflight.
Finally, while 24 satellites may seem like a lot, SpaceX has actually launched more at the same time on its Falcon 9 rockets. Last year, the company launched 64 tiny satellites at the same time as part of a rideshare mission brokered by the company Spaceflight.
Just last month, SpaceX launches the first 60 of its Starlink internet satellites to lay the foundations for a constellation of numbers in the thousands of satellites.
Editor's note: The launchpad for SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket has been updated to the launchpad. It is Launch Pad 39A, not Pad 39B.