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SpaceX gears up for 5th try at launching Falcon Heavy rocket

The Falcon Heavy rocket on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The triple-booster Falcon Heavy rocket on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX

After four scrubbed attempts to launch the Falcon Heavy earlier this month, SpaceX will spend the next couple of days preparing for a fifth effort to send the rocket skyward.

SpaceX’s previous attempts in recent weeks to use the rocket to deploy an experimental space plane in orbit for the U.S. Space Force were disrupted for a range of reasons, including poor weather at the Kennedy Space Center launch site in Florida and an unspecified “side issue” on the ground.

The current launch target is Thursday, December 28, though if the last four attempts are anything to go by, it’s by no means certain that the Falcon Heavy will launch on time. Indeed, SpaceX engineers will be keeping a close eye on the weather forecast, which currently suggests plenty of clouds with the chance of rain.

When the Falcon Heavy finally fires up its engines and roars away from the launch pad, the rocket will take its ninth flight since its first one in 2018.

SpaceX uses its trusty Falcon 9 rocket for most of its missions to deploy satellites in low-Earth orbit, as well as for flights to and from the International Space Station, so there’s a greater level of interest surrounding the Falcon Heavy, which comprises three Falcon 9 linked together to make a more powerful vehicle.

At launch, the Falcon Heavy packs about 5.5 million pounds of thrust, with its 27 engines creating force equal to around 18 747 aircraft.

All that rocket power creates quite a spectacle as it heads toward orbit, with those watching the event also treated to the return and upright landing of two of the three boosters shortly after launch.

The mission marks the first time for SpaceX to deploy the Space Force’s X-37B space plane, which will be heading to orbit for its seventh mission since its maiden flight in 2010. The uncrewed vehicle looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle and will carry out a range of tests while in orbit, including flying in “new orbital regimes, experimenting with future space domain awareness technologies, and investigating the radiation effects on materials provided by NASA,” according to the Space Force.

Digital Trends has all the information you need to watch the live stream of the Falcon Heavy’s launch, which will hopefully take place on Thursday.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
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