SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket puts a solar sail and scads of other experiments in orbit

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket puts a solar sail and scads of other experiments in orbit

Launch pad video shows the Falcon Heavy liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (SpaceX via YouTube)

successful test of the technology in 2015, and could blaze a trail for interstellar flight.’ data-reactid=”34″>One of the marquee payloads is a privately funded solar sail. The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 mission follows up on a successful test of the technology in 2015, and could blaze a trail for interstellar flight.

LightSail 2 is designed to be released from a satellite that’s roughly the size of a washing machine, about a week after launch, and unfurl a reflective sheet of Mylar plastic to a width of 18.4 feet. The pressure of sunlight should push against the shiny sheet like the wind pushing against a sail.

Other experimental payloads include a miniaturized atomic clock designed by NASA for use in deep space, a satellite that will test a more environmentally friendly “green” propellant for next-generation rockets and spacecraft, Pentagon-funded satellites to gauge the impact of space radiation, and a constellation of six radio-sensing satellites to gather atmospheric data.‘ data-reactid=”38″>Other experimental payloads include a miniaturized atomic clock designed by NASA for use in deep space, a satellite that will test a more environmentally friendly “green” propellant for next-generation rockets and spacecraft, Pentagon-funded satellites to gauge the impact of space radiation, and a constellation of six radio-sensing satellites to gather atmospheric data.

put a Tesla Roadster into deep space in February 2018, and a launch in April 2019 that sent the Arabsat-6A telecommunications satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit. The two side boosters for this mission were previously used for the ArabSat-6A launch.’ data-reactid=”40″>This was the third Falcon Heavy launch — following up on a demonstration mission that put a Tesla Roadster into deep space in February 2018, and a launch in April 2019 that sent the Arabsat-6A telecommunications satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit. The two side boosters for this mission were previously used for the ArabSat-6A launch.

More than an hour after liftoff, SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker reported that the SpaceX recovery ship Ms. Tree had caught a piece of the Falcon Heavy’s nose cone, or fairing, in the broad net that was spread above its deck.

“We have accomplished the first landing on the net of a Falcon payload fairing half,” Insprucker said. “So, another first-time accomplishment for the SpaceX team.”

A webcam view from the Ms. Tree recovery ship shows a fairing half from the Falcon Heavy rocket sitting in the ship’s net, toward the left side of the frame. (SpaceX via YouTube)

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