SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches April 11 from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Photo by Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI | License Photo
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. May 13 (UPI) -- SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is set for its third-ever launch June 22, carrying 24 payloads for the U.S. Air Force and other government clients, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It's the first time the U.S. military will use a Falcon Heavy rocket, and it will reuse the two boosters that launched Falcon Heavy's Arabsat-6A mission in April.
According to an Air Force announcement, the launch is "among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history, with four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits, and a final propulsive passivation maneuver during a total mission duration of over six hours."
Known as STP-2, the mission will carry a broad range of science and technology experiments and demonstrations. The various satellites will provide data on weather forecasting, environmental monitoring, communications and other topics.
The military will evaluate the launch with an eye toward future missions that rely on SpaceX's reusable boosters, the Air Force said.
Falcon Heavy is essentially three smaller Falcon 9 rockets strapped together. In that configuration, it is the tallest and most powerful rocket in use today.
The maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy in February 2018 drew about 100,000 onlookers, and thousands lined streets and waterfronts to see the second launch. The launches are remarkable not only because of the large rocket taking off, but also because two boosters fly back to Cape Canaveral, creating double sonic booms and a visual spectacle.
The third booster has, so far, targeted a barge in the Atlantic Ocean for its landing.