Falcon Heavy's Launch with Arabsat 6A in Spectacular Imagery

Falcon Heavy lifting off pad 39A with Arabsat 6A, as seen from the crawlerway formerly used by the Saturn V and space shuttles, just outside the launch pad’s south perimeter. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

SpaceX put on another spectacular show April 11 with the second launch of their triple-barreled Falcon Heavy rocket, delivering the heavy-lift vehicle’s first paying customer to space with the Arabsat-6A satellite.

As always, our imagery team set out with a fleet of cameras to capture as many angles as we could. Featured here is some of our photo & video coverage.

Watch for the pad camera panning up with the rocket! Video Credit: Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace.com

By all accounts the mission was flawless, and with SpaceX landing all 3 boosters this time things went about as good as they could have possibly hoped (they even recovered the fairings to reuse on a future Starlink mission).

The rocket boasted three uprated shiny new Block 5 cores (the center core being modified for the unique stresses of its responsibility), achieving a 10-percent increase in thrust (over 5 million pounds) over the February 2018 test flight.

Falcon Heavy heading east over the Atlantic with Arabsat-6A. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace.com

A minute into ascent, the stack passed “Max Q”, the period of maximum aerodynamic turbulence on its flight surfaces. The side boosters shut down not long after, as planned, at 2.5 minutes and separated, commencing an intricate “boost-back” sequence which saw them alight smoothly and in tandem on LZ-1 and 2 at the Cape, only seven minutes and 50 seconds after liftoff.

Both boosters returned with spectacularly loud sonic booms as well, much moreso than the prior Falcon Heavy, as atmospheric conditions play a big role on how loud rockets are from a given viewing area.

Falcon Heavy side boosters returning to Landing Zones 1 and 2 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com

Meanwhile, the central core continued to burn for another minute, before it too shut down and separated to begin its much faster, higher-energy descent towards the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS)—dubbed “Of Course I Still Love You”—positioned about 600 miles (960 km) offshore.

And while the central core nailed its landing, there were problems encountered when trying to bring the rocket back to Florida, so it won’t be returning anymore.

Falcon Heavy center core landed on the SpaceX ASDS. before tipping over in high seas en route to Port Canaveral. Credit: SpaceX

“As conditions worsened with 8-10 foot swells, the booster began to shift and ultimately was unable to remain upright,” said the company in a statement this afternoon. “While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence. We do not expect future missions to be impacted.”

The side boosters are expected to be reused on the next Falcon Heavy too, which is tasked with launching the Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission to orbit for the U.S. Air Force and currently tracking towards a “no-earlier-than” (NET) launch of June 19.

Falcon Heavy taking flight on 5.1 million pounds of thrust from its 27 Merlin engines with Arabsat-6A. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

Other payload including some for NASA will be onboard as well.

That date however is pending analysis of the boosters by SpaceX to determine reusability, according to a tweet by USAF this afternoon.

While that works proceeds, workers on the Cape are gearing up for their next mission, which will launch a Cargo Dragon on the NASA CRS-17 mission to the International Space Station as soon as April 26 at 5:55am Eastern time; should make for a stunning scene in morning twilight for Florida’s Space Coast.

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Below imagery credit to their respective photographers

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Falcon Heavy test fire. Credit: Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace.com
Falcon Heavy rolled out to pad 39A. Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Falcon Heavy raising vertical for launch. Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Falcon Heavy with Arabsat-6A atop pad 39A on April 10, 2019. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: John Studwell / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: John Studwell / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: John Studwell / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: John Studwell / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com
Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

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3 comments to Falcon Heavy’s Launch with Arabsat 6A in Spectacular Imagery

  • Larry

    I noticed the dark area at the base of the side boosters that extend almost halfway up each booster. That area is not dark at launch. The dividing line beteewn the lower dark and upper white areas is quite sharp so I’m not convinced this is from re-entry of flame heating.

    Can anyone explain this?

  • It’s still incredible to think that those things are the height of medium sized buildings and are falling that ridiculously fast and just slamming on the brakes at the last possible second. It’s just so freaking cool. This will never get old.

  • […] All told, the first half of 2019 has seen an impressive tempo of launches for SpaceX, with one flight per month, equaling a similar achievement of five flights by the beginning of May back in 2017, although somewhat less than the eight missions accomplished in the same time period last year. The multi-satellite Iridium NEXT low-orbiting constellation was completed in January, Israel’s (ultimately) ill-fated Beresheet lunar lander was boosted towards the Moon in February, the Crew Dragon undertook a successful unpiloted test flight to the ISS in early March—before later succumbing to an explosive failure during a ground run of its SuperDraco thrusters on 20 April—and the Falcon Heavy saw its first operational launch, just last month. […]

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