SpaceX is set to make the first commercial launch of its new Falcon Heavy rocket in early April, an event being observed by the U.S. Air Force for future use of the reusable launch vehicle in national security missions, Space News reported Monday.
Service officials said the launch of the Arabsat 6A commercial communications satellite aboard Falcon Heavy from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will help determine the rocket's capability to support the military's missions in space.
“We will take an up-close and personal look at how they do things,“ said Randy Kendall, vice president of launch program operations at the Aerospace Corp., which advises the Air Force on national security launch. “This will further refine our strategy for the mission assurance activities that we have to conduct to get comfortable with reused boosters.“
Two months after sending Arabsat 6A to space, SpaceX plans to reuse the same side-mounted boosters on the Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the Air Force Space Test Program rideshare mission.
The Air Force will use data from the Arabsat 6A mission to provide SpaceX the certification needed to offer the launch vehicle for national security missions.
The company has yet to finalize the date for the STP-2 launch.