SpaceX has lined up another launch of its mighty Falcon Heavy rocket from Florida’s Space Coast.
In what is now the sixth planned launch for the powerful rocket, SpaceX is planning to send a Viasat satellite into orbit between 2020 and 2022 from the Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. California-based Viasat announced the deal Thursday.
Falcon Heavy has only launched once before, in a demo flight that sent a Tesla Roadster into space in February from Kennedy Space Center. Thousands of spectators flocked to the Space Coast, lining up on Playalinda Beach and near Kennedy Space Center to watch as the Falcon Heavy took off, sending massive plumes of smoke across the launch pad.
The rocket is the most powerful U.S. rocket since the Saturn V, which took men to the moon. It can lift up to 141,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit.
Global communications company Viasat said it had chosen the Falcon Heavy specifically for its ability to fly almost directly to its final destination at geostationary orbit — instead of having to perform a set of maneuvers before it reaches that destination.
Getting straight to geostationary orbit means the ViaSat-3 satellite will be able to turn on its ultra-high-speed broadband service quicker than when launched with a different rocket, the company said. Together, the three ViaSat-3 satellites, one of which will ride on Falcon Heavy, are designed to bring more than one terabit per second of network capacity to customers in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific region.
“We selected SpaceX as they continue to demonstrate their commitment to advancing space technologies,” said Dave Ryan, president, Space Systems at Viasat, in a press release. “Their proven technology is both powerful and efficient enough to thrust a ViaSat-3 spacecraft close to geostationary orbit.”
Two more Falcon Heavy launches are scheduled for next year from the Space Coast: An Arabsat satellite and the Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 mission, which will send military and scientific research satellites into orbit.
Also planned are launches of the Air Force Space Command-52 satellite in 2020 and the first geostationary satellite from Swedish company Ovzon in late 2020. London-based satellite company Inmarsat also has a contract of fly on Falcon Heavy, but hasn’t assigned a satellite to the launch yet.
© 2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
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