SpaceX launches a powerful Falcon Heavy rocket on a secret Space Force mission

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying an array of US Space Force-rated payloads blasted off on the rocket’s fourth flight on Tuesday, the first for the nation’s most powerful operational launcher since 2019 and the first since then to feature a stunning tandem landing. Two strap on reinforcement.

Partially obscured by thick fog, liftoff came from historic Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 9:41 a.m. EDT when the massive rocket had 27 Merlin engines in its first stage, nine out of three strapped together alongside Falcon 9 boosters. , caught more than 5 million pounds of thrust, the equivalent of 18,747 jumbo jets.

SpaceX launch
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket advances toward space after blasting off from the historic Platform 39A at the Kennedy Space Center carrying a batch of classified US Space Force payloads.

SpaceX


After a final round of lightning-fast computer checks, the 230-foot-tall Falcon Heavy, tipping the scales at nearly 3.1 million pounds, blasted off to cheer skyward, blasting away to the east over the Atlantic in Earth-shaking straight up ascending into a circular orbit at an altitude of 22,300. miles above the equator.

The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the US inventory, but the honor is expected to pass to NASA’s massive Space Launch System booster when it flies for the first time later this month to send an unmanned Orion capsule around the moon and back. .

The title of the most powerful rocket will then be handed over to SpaceX’s giant Super Heavy-Starship when it finally takes off on its first flight late this year or early this year.

A view of the 27 Falcon Heavy engines from the first stage of Merlin
A view of the 27 Falcon Heavy engines from Merlin’s first stage, nine in each of the three Falcon 9 stages strapped together, during pre-launch processing.

SpaceX


However, the Falcon Heavy didn’t disappoint, delivering a dramatic sky-high as it rose from the mist that blanketed the spaceport over a gleaming jet of fiery exhaust, as the roar of its twenty-seven engines shattered the morning’s calm.

The Falcon Heavy’s side boosters, both making their first flight, are programmed to flip moments after separation and restart three engines each to reverse course. Another fire slowed the reinforcements to plunge back into the dense lower atmosphere.

As the boosters descended toward Earth, their central core engines rebooted, deployed landing legs and stabilized in perfect shape, landing side-by-side on concrete platforms at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, while sonic booms resounded across Florida’s space coast.

The landings were on the 24th and 25th at the Space Force Station, and the successful recovery of the 150th and 151st Falcon family boosters from SpaceX overall.

Unlike the side boosters, the core stage of the Falcon Heavy, which is also making its first flight, used all of its propellant to propel the second stage from the lower atmosphere into space. No recovery is planned.

The launch was the first fully functional national security payload to fly aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. But details about the classified cargo were scanty, and SpaceX ended its suspension on launch with a lateral booster landing.

“We worked alongside SpaceX to ensure that the Falcon Heavy met all of our requirements and launched successfully,” Walt Lauderdale, USSF-44 launch mission manager, said in a pre-launch statement.

“This will be the first launch of the Falcon Heavy in over three years, and we are excited to take these payloads into space. This launch is an important milestone and continues a strong partnership that enhances the capability that will serve the nation for years to come.”

Two payloads are mounted on top of each other in a second-stage nose cone, one known as Shepherd Demonstration and the other a carrier spacecraft known as Long Duration Propulsive ESPA, or LDPE 2, carrying half a dozen sub-payloads.

“The LDPE platform is a standard satellite bus that can host multiple payloads, including detachable spacecraft,” the Space Force said in a statement. “This approach makes transportation cost affordable for a wide range of small and secondary payloads and takes several steps to accelerate the USSF hub to new, more flexible space structures.”

The Shepherd Demonstration satellite “hosts payloads that mature technologies and accelerate risk reduction efforts,” Spaceflight Now said in response to a question about their nature.

A spokesperson said the satellite was carrying several Space Force payloads, but no details were provided.

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The first flight of a Falcon Heavy in 2018 boosted the Tesla Roadster into space as an illustration, providing stunning views of a mannequin in the driver’s seat with the Earth as the backdrop.

SpaceX


Falcon Heavy was launched in first flight In February 2018, she became famous for a fake pregnancy increase – cherry red Tesla Roadster Carrying a mannequin in the driver’s seat – in deep space. The two external boosters of the rocket carried out flawless landings side by side, attracting the attention of the whole world.

that it Second trip in April 2019 It was the first use of three “block 5” core boosters with 27 more efficient Merlin motors, three per base stage, and a single motor-powered upper stage. The company recovered all three base reinforcements, two by landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the third aboard an unmanned ship offshore.

The Heavy The third flight came in June 2019 When the missile boosted a group of Air Force and civilian satellites into orbit on a mission that won the missile’s official Pentagon certification for assigned national security missions. The USSF-44 flight launched on Tuesday was the first of two such missions currently on SpaceX’s manifest.

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