The Third Falcon Heavy Launch

Great things come in threes.

Three bones in the human ear.

Three piece suits.

The Three ships of the Columbus Expedition

The Three Wise men of Christmas traditions

The Three heads of Cerberus, the guard dog of the mythological Hades.

The three cores on the Falcon Heavy.

Well, the Falcon Heavy comes up on its third launch this summer. For it, three is a magic number. It establishes that the rocket is reliable enough for most business uses, certainly not for launching humans or costly deep-space probes with rare and difficult launch windows…yet, but just fine for most other things.

The first launch, though it re-opened the heavy-lift rocket envelope for expansion, could have been a one-off…a fluke…a rich man’s vanity project. Especially since the Tesla Roadster and Starman seemed a little bit silly to some folks. The point was to establish that the Falcon Heavy could make it to orbit without an epic explosion and that the Falcon second stage could survive Earth’s radiation belt (something that seems important to the U.S. Air Force for some reason). It also demonstrated that the rocket has the reach to be used for Interplanetary space exploration.

The second launch could maybe be called a “50-50 proposition”…a coin toss. It was also for ArabSat, an application roughly half-way around the world which might not hit home enough for U.S. citizens to relate. It did however demonstrate the use of the rocket for what has traditionally been the most financially lucrative part of Commercial Space…very large, geosynchronous communications satellites.

The upcoming third launch this summer will demonstrate stability. The Falcon Heavy will need to serve as SpaceX’s best access to the heavy launch market while they develop the Falcon Super Heavy and Starship. To do that, folks need to witness enough stability in the rocket and its support infrastructure to trust using it for their projects.

Also, by lofting such a wonderful mixed bag of Air Force and student research payloads, it gives a wider variety of folks a reason for an emotional stake in it.

The side boosters from the ArabSat mission will be used to demonstrate the launch system’s reusability, maybe prompting the Air Force to change the silly name of its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program to something more…well…evolved.

Already, NASA and the Air Force have begun to write the Falcon Heavy’s capabilities into upcoming mission plans and NASA’s Jim Bridenstien has used it in public (without naming it explicitly) as a stick to prod the Space Launch System development team into action to try and get that system flying before 2021.

Three launches puts it in business, so we can expect to see this…

…with much greater frequency.


~ by Bill Housley on May 15, 2019.

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