Super Heavy 31 engine static fire as seen on Feb. 9, 2023.

Super Heavy 31 engine static fire as seen on Feb. 9, 2023. (Official SpaceX photos/Flickr)

(Tribune News Service) — SpaceX is rolling out its powerful Falcon Heavy for a late-night launch Wednesday that will feature double sonic booms of its returning boosters that might shake up Central Florida.

The rocket is one of the most powerful available for Space Coast launches, essentially three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together that produce 5.1 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The payload for this mission is a telecom satellite for Hughes Network Systems called the EchoStar Jupiter 3 aiming for liftoff from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39-A during a 99-minute launch window that opens at 11:04 p.m.

A backup opportunity falls during the same window Thursday. Space Launch Delta 45’s weather squadron predicts an 85% chance for good weather Wednesday, and 60% if the backup window is needed on Thursday.

The sonic booms will come when the two side boosters return for recovery about eight minutes after liftoff breaking the sound barrier on their way back down to nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Landing Zones 1 and 2.

The company stated residents might hear one or two of the late-night booms not just in Brevard County, but also Orange, Osceola, Indian River, Seminole, Volusia, Polk, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee counties.

This is only the seventh launch ever for the Falcon Heavy. Its first launch in 2018 was a test mission that brought more than an estimated 100,000 fans out to the Space Coast to watch the rocket send Elon Musk’s Tesla roadster into space. It then flew a pair of missions in 2019 before finally getting back to launches in November 2022 after a three-year hiatus.

During that run, it was the most powerful rocket in use until NASA’s Space Launch System successfully lifted off on the Artemis I mission to the moon.

For 2023, the pace for Falcon Heavy use has picked up, having already flown in January and May. It has two more potential launches before the end of the year after the EchoStar mission. Those include its first deep-space mission for NASA, which will send a probe named Psyche to an asteroid of the same name targeting launch as early as Oct. 5. It also has what would be its third Department of Defense mission that could fly as early as November.

The rocket is becoming a heavy lift workhorse for SpaceX while the company continues efforts to build out its Starship and Super Heavy rocket.

©2023 Orlando Sentinel.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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