Gallery: Falcon Heavy with Arabsat-6A – Hard as thunder, light as rain
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — One, two, three. Each of these numbers denoted major milestone achieved by SpaceX with the flight of the Arabsat-6A mission on one of the company’s Falcon Heavy rockets.
The Thursday April 11 launch marked the first flight of the 230-foot-tall (about 70 meters) rocket with the payload from a paying customer. Arabsat’s newest satellite on orbit is described as: … a high-capacity telecommunications satellite that will deliver television, radio, Internet, and mobile communications to customers in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Built on Lockheed Martin’s enhanced LM 2100 platform.
The launch of Arabsat-6A was only the second flight for the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. Its initial test flight, conducted in February of 2018, sent the Tesla Roadster that belonged to the company’s CEO and Founder, Elon Musk sent into a heliocentric orbit.
One of the hallmarks of most Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches are the landings carried out by the rocket’s first stage(s). Last year’s Falcon Heavy saw two of the three core stages land at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zones 1 and 2. The third, which was going to fast to also land at the Cape, oriented itself for a landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship” positioned out in the Atlantic. The center core was not successful.
As Londo Mollari, a character in the Babylon 5 TV series, once said: “Today? Today is a very different day.” SpaceX landed all three booster cores for a recovery rate of 100 percent.
Those on the ground likely viewed the mission by the sound it generated. With the first component of the flight being loud, like thunder and with the landing being as light as rain. SpaceX engineers probably were more focused on the numbers – with the most important possibly being – one, two and three.
For more information about this critical milestone in SpaceX’s growth review our article: 3 landings, 1 commercial payload – SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy makes history – again
The following photos were taken by SpaceFlight Insider’s visual team and are courtesy of Michael Howard, Michael McCabe and Scott Schilke. If you enjoy our coverage and are able, consider supporting us on Patreon to help in our efforts to to bring you fantastic content about the space industry!