SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket launch preparation (Photo tweeted by @NASA)
SpaceX, the American aerospace company is gearing up for the third-ever-launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket - the most powerful operational launch system in the world. Falcon Heavy is scheduled to be taken to the skies between 11:30 p.m. ET on June 24 and 2:30 am ET on June 25, weather permitting. The much-anticipated mission, also known as Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) will propel 24 satellites into orbit around Earth - as well as the ashes of 152 dead people.
The cremated remains will be launched with assistance of a company named Celestis Memorial Spaceflights, which purchases available room on spacecraft, installs a container, then packs it with small metal capsules filled with ashes. It refers to these as "participants." The satellites also include Lightsail 2, a solar-sail test mission promoted by science star Bill Nye.
The "most difficult launch ever", as SpaceX founder Elon Musk described the misson, 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.
When @SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches, it will carry @NASA_Technology, including an atomic clock for space navigation & space weather research missions. 🚀Join our experts on @Reddit on Tuesday at 2pm ET to ask anything about what we're launching: https://t.co/yzlYmjbQki pic.twitter.com/PNTQP8Qi5T— NASA (@NASA) June 16, 2019
In a statement, SpaceX said, "The STP-2 mission will be among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history", 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," Elon Musk wrote on Twitter.
The side boosters are expected to be landed 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. However, this time SpaceX hopes to bring it home safely.