MERRITT ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REGUGE/PLAYALINDA BEACH, FL – The ULA Atlas V and SpaceX Falcon Heavy rockets simultaneously stood vertical together for the first time ever today, Jan. 17 – at adjacent launch pads on Florida’s Spaceport – after the hazy day Atlas V rollout to pad 41 in preparation of its launch tomorrow evening, Thursday, Jan. 18, as the Falcon Heavy awaits its critical first static fire test on pad 39A.
Check out my exclusive photo gallery for SpaceUpClose.com of the Atlas V at pad 41 and the Falcon Heavy at pad 39A pointing magnificently skyward to the High Frontier from the Florida Space Coast.
The Atlas V and Falcon Heavy were both upright and they were close enough to be captured in a single shot – it’s just epic!!
The Atlas V appears smaller in the photos because its roughly 2 miles further south from my vantage point compared to the Falcon Heavy. In reality the Atlas V stands 194 feet tall (60 meters) and the Falcon Heavy stands 229 feet tall (70 meters).
Today was simply really hard to beat for drama – seeing 2 powerful rockets standing tall on 2 Space Coast launch pads nearby to one another at the same time and raised high for the first time.
The triple stick Falcon Heavy is a brand new rocket launching on its inaugural mission on a demonstration test flight that billionaire SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has given a 50% chance of success. And the venerable United Launch Alliance Atlas V is launching on its 75th mission with a 100% success rate to date.
It’s a rare site to see 2 space birds out in the open aiming for liftoff.Two NASA space shuttles on pads 39A and B for the STS-125 Hubble repair mission in 2009 comes to mind.
Plus both rockets today are respectively serving critical but different purposes: for US National Security carrying a missile warning/missile defense satellite in the case of the Atlas V and for a breakthrough for commercial space endeavors in the case of the debut launch of the triple core Falcon Heavy, that’s soon to become the world’s most powerful rocket.
It was just absolutely amazing and thrilling to see the Atlas V emerge slowly (and belatedly) from the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at pad 41 around 12:25 p.m. this afternoon in the shadow of the Falcon Heavy – which was recently rolled to pad 39A and raised vertical again last week in anticipation of its first crucial static fire test. The hot fire test igniting all 27 engines has been delayed several times as SpaceX technicians work diligently to test all the rockets systems and propellant loading capabilities and resolve technical issues.
It took about 35 minutes for the Atlas V rollout from the VIF to launch position, moving from right to left from my viewing location on the Playalinda causeway in the National Wildlife Refuge.
The Atlas V is launching the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 4 mission for the U.S. Air Force. Liftoff is planned for 7:52 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The L-1 forecast on Wednesdayshows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.
The Falcon Heavy static fire test is planned for No Earlier Than (NET) Friday, Jan. 19 at 330 p.m. It is entirely dependent on the Atlas V launch taking place. No SpaceX webcast is planned per normal practice, but SpaceUpClose will make every attempt to witness it and watch live.
The Atlas V first stage will generate about 1.2 million pounds of liftoff thrust fueled by liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene propellants, when it blasts off from pad 41.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of Falcon Heavy, ULA and NASA and space mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com – www.spaceupclose.com
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Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.