SpaceX gears up for Falcon Heavy launch

SpaceX is targeting no earlier than Wednesday, July 26th, for the launch of the Jupiter 3/Echostar XXIV communications satellite from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The launch is currently targeted for 11:04 p.m. ET (03:04 UTC on the 27th).

This satellite will be the heaviest payload ever launched to geostationary transfer orbit. The satellite, built by Maxar, weighs in at 9,200 kg (20,282 lbs) and features 14 solar arrays that, once deployed, will span 127 feet. The satellite will be able to handle 500+ gigabytes of capacity and provide speeds up to 100 megabytes per second. The satellite’s final orbit will be at 95 degrees west latitude and 22,300 miles above the equator over the Americas.

The satellite was recently flown in via an Antonov AN-224 from California, where it landed at Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility where it was then unloaded and transferred to the payload processing facility and encapsulated into the Falcon Heavy fairing and, if not already, will be attached to the Falcon Heavy.

This Falcon Heavy mission was originally rumored to have a dual droneship landing, however, SpaceX switched to have the side boosters perform a return to the landing site following separation from the center core booster. The center core, B1079, for this booster is on its first and last flight, as it will be expended to get the most performance and splashdown in the ocean, roughly 1,500 kilometers downrange.

The side boosters for this flight are B1064 and B1065, both having previously supported the USSF-44 and USSF-67 Falcon Heavy missions. The boosters will land about 8 minutes after launch, but if the skies are clear, will create the beautiful ‘nebula effect’ in the skies as the engine plumes interact in the upper atmosphere and then announce their return with six sonic booms.

Falcon Heavy side cores separating from the center core (Credit Richard Angle)

The current weather outlook for launch shows an 85 percent chance of acceptable weather for launch, however, if unable to launch, they have another opportunity the next day at the same time, but the weather has a 70% chance of being acceptable.

Watch the launch on the SpaceX YouTube channel!

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

Richard Angle: Launch journalist, specializing in launch photography. Based on the Space Coast, a short drive from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pads.
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