SpaceX Moved Its Falcon Heavy Rocket’s Landing Site

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Coming as a surprise, SpaceX has transferred the center core of the Falcon Heavy Flight 3 to land on a drone ship at Florida’s sea. The drone ship called Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) is located approximately 1240 kilometers (770 miles) off Florida’s coast.

The ship is being drawn to the landing site, requisite because of the arduous distance that has to be crossed at a slow towing pace. The actual record for distance covered during booster recovery was set at around 970 kilometers by the rocket center core B1055 in April 2019. If the mission is successful, Falcon Heavy center core will surpass that record by approximately 30 percent after shipping two dozen spacecraft into orbit.

The rocket is set to launch in support of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) project after 11.30 PM (03:30 UTC),​ on June the 24th. A standard static fire test at Pad 39A is scheduled to be performed before the launch on Wednesday, June the 19th.

This action is highly unexpected because firstly, the difference between a center core touching down 40 kilometers or 1300 kilometers from the takeoff site is enormous. For SpaceX’s rocket, the center core turns off and splits from the remaining body about a minute after the rocket’s two side boosters, with chances of doubling the booster’s relative speed at the split.

SpaceX Moved Its Falcon Heavy Rocket’s Landing Site

The additional minute of acceleration means that the center core can smoothly be about 50 to 100 and more kilometers down-range at the minute of the split. What this means is that landing 40 kilometers off the shore on a drone ship would be approximately similar to a full boost back burn. In other words, the center core would have to invalidate all of its considerable down-range speed, reverse, and fly about 50 to 100 kilometers back to the launch site.

Being capable of making such an assertive move would suggest that Falcon Heavy’s boost stage has a massive amount of fuel left after playing its part at the launch.

To have STP-2’s center core recovery relocated from 40 kilometers to 1240 kilometers, therefore, shows an utterly huge change in the rocket’s mission plan and the launch course.

Falcon Heavy Flight 3 is at the moment being transferred from SpaceX’s Kennedy Space Center Pad 39A launch site for a standard pre-launch static fire test, set for 12.30 ET (16:30 UTC), on June the 19th. If the test is successful, SpaceX will then be ready for its first STP-2 launch scheduled at 11.30 PM ET (03:30 UTC), on June the 24th.