Welcome to Florida Today's Space Team live coverage of tonight's SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch — followed less than three hours later by SpaceX Falcon 9.
SpaceX is targeting a 8:07 pm EST launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on the USSF-52 national security mission, lifting the Space Force's X-37B robotic space plane into orbit for its seventh secret mission.
Falcon Heavy's twin-sided boosters will generate sonic booms aimed at landing at SpaceX's Landing Zones 1 and 2 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Then at 11:01 p.m., SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 23 Starlink Internet satellites into low Earth orbit. That second launch will take place from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
No local noise boom was expected during that mission. Instead, the Falcon 9's first-stage booster will aim to land on a drone ship at sea.
When SpaceX's live webcast hosted on X (formerly Twitter) becomes available 15 minutes before Falcon Heavy launch, it will be posted at the top of this page.
Updated 7:45 pm: At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, hundreds of launch spectators — many with their hands tucked into their coat pockets to keep warm in the 58-degree evening weather — sat on metal bleachers in the North Atlantis Lawn viewing area west of NASA Parkway.
After stage separation, Falcon Heavy's two side boosters are scheduled to land on SpaceX's Landing Zones 1 and 2 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station 8 minutes, 24 seconds after liftoff, SpaceX said.
“Now folks, you're going to look at it and say, 'That's CGI. It's all fake' — and you're going to see it with your own eyes,” Delaware North spokesman Bill Shaffer told the crowd over a loudspeaker. .
“But you can hear the sonic boom. You can hear the roar of the engine. It's beautiful weather. Good Lord willing, we can have a wonderful launch. And then about 8½ minutes into the flight, (they'll) land. And you'll be amazed,” Shaffer said.
Updated 7:28 pm: The SpaceX crew is now fueling the Falcon Heavy first stage with rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen in Pad 39A, visual notes indicate.
Updated 7:13 pm: SpaceX just announced: “All systems are good and weather is 90% favorable for Falcon Heavy USSF-52 launch tonight.”
That represents an improvement over the 80% “go to launch” odds cited in the Space Force's 45th Weather Force forecast released Wednesday.
UPDATE 6:55 PM: Here are the key milestones in the Falcon Heavy release timeline coming up tonight:
|The SpaceX launch director checks the “go” for the propellant load.
|Loading of first phase of rocket grade kerosene begins.
|The first phase of liquid oxygen loading begins.
|Loading of second phase of rocket grade kerosene begins.
|The second phase of liquid oxygen loading begins.
|Falcon Heavy engine starts cold.
|The flight computer was ordered to begin final pre-launch tests.
|The SpaceX launch director checks the “go” for the launch.
|The propellant tanks pressurize the aircraft.
|The engine controller commands the engine to start the ignition sequence.
|Falcon Heavy Liftoff.
UPDATED 6:33 PM: As a reminder, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 Dec. Launched on 10
Instead, the teams scrapped the Falcon Heavy missile effort “due to problems on the ground.” Dreary weather prevailed on the Space Coast for several days leading up to Christmas.
This afternoon, SpaceX officials tweeted a pair of photos of the Falcon Heavy standing on Pad 39A.
UPDATE 6:16 PM: All viewing tickets for the upcoming Falcon Heavy launch at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex sold out earlier today, spokeswoman Rebecca Burkman said.
Viewing tickets for seats in the campus' Apollo/Saturn V Center, accessible by bus and located about 3 miles from Pad 39B, sold out this morning. Online ticket sales for viewing at the main visitor complex ended this afternoon.
“We always expect more traffic this holiday week. Of course, having a release adds to that interest from a consumer standpoint,” Burkman said.
“There's definitely a lot of interest in seeing a launch. It's kind of a bucket-list experience for a lot of people who were going to Orlando or other parts of Central Florida,” he said.
“We've seen people who have driven two hours – two to three hours. We're here to see it. So, we'll have a lovely lunch tonight and entertain everyone,” he said.
For the latest launch schedule updates from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA's Kennedy Space Center, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.
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