SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Prepares for its First Fully Expendable Mission

Image: SpaceX

What goes up won’t come down. 

SpaceX is preparing its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch a ViaSat-3 satellite on April 18—the first mission for the rocket in which all three boosters will be expended. 

The mission: The Falcon Heavy, which consists of three Falcon 9 boosters, will deploy the ViaSat broadband communication satellite to GEO. It will be SpaceX’s sixth Falcon Heavy launch. The satellite is the first of three 6,400-kg birds in the ViaSat-3 constellation. 

A fully expendable launch: ViaSat has opted to take the direct-to-GEO route, requiring SpaceX to modify the Falcon Heavy for max velocity generation. 

  • The launch vehicle will use up all its fuel for the deployment mission and reserve none for the boosters to power themselves safely back to Earth. 
  • Since all three rockets are expendable, SpaceX did not install landing gear on the vehicle. 

While SpaceX has previously expended the Falcon Heavy’s center core, this will be the first time the rocket is configured to be fully expendable. Although they have not revealed the final costs, ViaSat is expected to pay a premium for the disposable rocket. 

Falcon Heavy: The Falcon Heavy debuted in 2018 with the iconic launch of a red Tesla Roadster into a heliocentric orbit. Since then, the launch vehicle has completed four launches. After the April 18 launch, Falcon Heavy has three additional launches scheduled for 2023.