April 11th. Falcon Heavy, Arabsat-6A
6:35 pm EST atop a Falcon Heavy rocket by SpaceX from LC-39A
Thursday, April 11th at 6:35 p.m. EST, SpaceX launched the second ever Falcon heavy rocket, the most powerful launch vehicle in current use by a factor of two. Launch pad 39A which was once reserved for lunar missions is now currently in use for crew demonstration missions and Falcon Heavy missions. For this mission SpaceX landed all three booster cores successfully, with the two side boosters landing at LZ-1 and LZ-2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and the core booster landing on the drone ship "OCISLY" downrange in the Atlantic ocean. The core booster was later lost at sea in foul weather.
Arabsat-6A atop a Falcon Heavy being raised vertically on launch pad 39A.
Built by Lockheed Martin, Arabsat-6A was built around the LM2100 satellite bus, a modern version of the company's successful A2100 platfrom. With a dry mass of 3,520 kilograms, and a fully fueled mass of 6,000 killograms the satellite will operate in geostationary orbit, a particular orbit where the satellite will take exactly one day to orbit the earth. It will replace the nine year old Arabsat-5A in providing television, radio, and internet communications in the Middle East, parts of Africa, and Europe.
Falcon Heavy stands at 230 feet tall, and is a two stage vehicle, with two liquid fuelled boosters strapped to the side of the first stage to provide additional thrust. All of the engines, twenty seven in total run off RP-1 propellant, rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen.
This is the first time Falcon Heavy has flown with the block 5 components, an upgrade which was introduced for the Falcon 9 last year just a few months after the FH debut. Other changes were made to the first stage boosters to ensure that each core could be re-flown numerous times, whereas previous generation boosters were able to only fly twice before retirement.