SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, the imposing launch vehicle known for the aerobatics of its boosters and simultaneous descent upon return to Earth, took to the skies on Sunday, launching national security payloads into orbit for the US military.
The mission, designated USSF-67, lifted off at 5:56 p.m. m. EST from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking the fifth successful flight of the rocket that was recently dethroned as the world’s most powerful operational launch vehicle. This task was originally announced to start on Saturday and it was not immediately clear what caused the one-day delay.
The Falcon Heavy debuted to much fanfare in 2018 when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk attached his personal Tesla Roadster car as a test payload at launch. The car still in space taking an elongated path around the sun that circles up to the orbital path of Mars.
The missile followed that test mission with two launches in 2019 before being halted for three years; The vast majority of SpaceX missions do not require a power booster than the Falcon Heavy. On the other hand, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has launched more than 60 times in 2022 alone, sending two rocket groups of astronauts as well as Starlink satellites and a variety of other spacecraft.
But SpaceX is now making a lot of money Military Launch Contracts I signed up for the Falcon Heavy years ago. The missile returned to the air in November with the launch of US Army Mission USSF-44, and its Sunday liftoff was a continuation of that program.
“USSF-44 included six payloads on a single satellite that advanced communications, space weather sensing, and other technologies in near-Earth orbit,” according to the Army. Space Operations Command.
USSF-67 will use the same type of spacecraft Deployed in USSF-44, it’s called an LDPE and it’s basically an outer space bus that can carry smaller satellites. The Falcon Heavy also carried a communication Satellite called SATCOM Enhanced Continuous Broadcast, for the US Space Force.
Additional details about the satellites in Sunday’s mission were not immediately available.
With each launch, the Falcon Heavy rocket puts on a spectacular show on Earth.
After Sunday’s mission, the company recovered two of the Falcon Heavy rocket’s first stage propellants: long white sticks tied together to give the rocket its increased power on liftoff. After expending most of their fuel, the outboard thrusters separated from the central core and refocused to pass through Earth’s atmosphere.
As they neared the ground, the boosters re-ignited their engines and they completed a simultaneous landing on land platforms near the Florida coast. It’s a signature move for SpaceX, which routinely salvages and reuses its rocket boosters to reduce launch costs.
SpaceX did not attempt to restore the booster center due to fuel requirements.
The company has yet to manage to recover all three boosters, though it is getting close. The two side boosters made precise and simultaneous landings on land platforms after the April 2019 mission, and the rocket’s center booster landed on an offshore platform. But Strong waves toppled him.
For years, the Falcon Heavy was the world’s most powerful operational rocket. But in November, NASA’s new moon rocket, called the Space Launch System, or SLS, stole that title with it. maiden release. SLS launched the Unoccupied Artemis 1 mission around the Moon, paving the way for future missions with astronauts aboard.
While the Falcon Heavy gives out about 5 million pounds of thrust, the SLS puts out as much 8.8 million pounds of thrust – 15% more than the Saturn V rockets that powered the Apollo moon landings.
At its test facility in South Texas, SpaceX is entering the final stages of preparation for the first orbital launch attempt of its Starship spacecraft and heavy rocket. Although the test flight is still awaiting final approval from federal regulators, it could begin in the next few weeks.
If successful, SpaceX’s Starship would dethrone SLS as the most powerful rocket currently flying.
The Starship system is expected to outperform both the SLS and the Falcon Heavy. The next Super Heavy booster, designed to catapult the Starship spacecraft into space, is expected to be delayed. 17 million pounds of thrust.
However, not everything is competition. Both the SLS rocket and SpaceX’s Starship are an integral part of NASA. Plans to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century.
SpaceX has its own ambitious vision for Starship: transporting humans and cargo to Mars in the hope of one day establishing a permanent human settlement there.