Falcon Heavy flew for a second time in April 2019.


The most powerful rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX is once again set to take to the skies and beyond. Falcon Heavy is scheduled for its first nighttime launch on Monday, June 24. This will be the rocket system’s third flight, and it will be a challenging one.

NASA, which has some payloads on board, will livestream the proceedings starting at 8 p.m. PT from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The actual launch is aiming for 8:30 p.m. PT if weather conditions cooperate.  

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This mission, dubbed STP-2 for the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2, will ferry a couple dozen satellites into orbit, including Lightsail 2, a solar-sail test mission promoted by science star Bill Nye. It will also carry a Deep Space Atomic Clock, which could be used to help spacecraft navigate to distant destinations, as well as a satellite that will test a new type of green propellant for NASA.

“The STP-2 mission will be among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history,” SpaceX said, citing four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits and a total mission duration of over six hours. For comparison, the last Falcon Heavy mission deployed its satellite just 34 minutes after launch. 

“This will be our most difficult launch ever,” founder Elon Musk tweeted.

SpaceX will attempt to land the side boosters on ground landing zones, and the center core on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The center core for the previous launch in April landed successfully on the ship, but was a loss due to rough sea conditions. SpaceX hopes to bring it safely home this time.

Originally published June 21. 

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