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SpaceX is preparing for a Falcon Heavy mission today that Elon Musk calls the company’s “most difficult launch ever.”
The STP-2 mission will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:30 p.m. ET. Deployments will begin approximately 12 minutes after liftoff and end approximately 3 hours and 32 minutes after liftoff.
Falcon Heavy’s side boosters for the STP-2 mission previously supported the Arabsat-6A mission in April 2019. Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters will attempt to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Falcon Heavy’s center core will attempt to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The STP-2 launch will demonstrate the capabilities of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle and provide critical data supporting certification for future National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions. In addition, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) will use this mission as a pathfinder for the development of mission assurance policies and procedures related to the reuse of launch vehicle boosters.
The STP-2 payloads are assembled from a host of mission partners including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), DoD research laboratories, and university research projects.
One of the big challenges of the mission is achieving a high level of performance out of the rockets.
“[The STP-2 mission] will deliver 24 satellites to space on the DoD’s first-ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch,” SpaceX said on its website. “[It] will be among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history, with four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits, a final propulsive passivation maneuver, and a total mission duration of over six hours.”
SpaceX’s livestream for the mission is embedded below.