SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, the world's most powerful rocket, is gearing up for the launch of its first commercial payload. It will be an experimental satellite for the US Air Force (USAF).
The USAF is looking to make use of the Falcon Heavy to launch its Space Test Program 2 mission (STP-2), reports Bloomberg. The launch in June will actually happen before the military certifies the massive SpaceX rocket because the mission is reportedly only experimental.
If the Falcon Heavy is to be used for national security missions, it will still need to complete all of the validation processes that the government has in place for its satellite launches. The June launch will not only take the USAF satellite into orbit, but it will also be the first mission to demonstrate the Falcon Heavy's capabilities, including launching several satellites at once. The USAF will be the first paying customer to use the service along with Arabsat, Inmarsat and Viasat, which will also be making use of the extra room aboard the Heavy.
Spacex is expecting this year and 2019 to be a rather busy one. There are over 30 launches scheduled for 2018 alone. While most of them will be using the Falcon 9, the June USAF launch may not be the only Heavy launch.
SpaceX has been busy building rocket engines in anticipation of increased demand. A report by Next Big Future points out that at the current rate of production, the company has the capacity to make over 100 Falcon Heavy launches by 2020.
Elon Musk's company is reported to be building five engines per week and the factory's capacity can be expanded to about eight per week, about 400 engines a year. Every Falcon 9 rocket has 10 engines, nine for the first stage and one for the second stage. The Heavy has 28 engines: three Falcon 9 size boosters and one second stage engine.
SpaceX recovers all the boosters and only the single second stage engines do not get reused. With a third drone ship on the way to support Heavy launches, the company is gearing up for hectic activity in the coming year.