With a roar of thunder, SpaceX launched a triple-core Falcon Heavy rocket for the U.S. Space Force on Sunday, launching a military communications satellite into space along with a steerable payload carrier that hosts five classified technology demonstration packages.
Falcon Heavy produced more than 5 million pounds of thrust from the 27 Merlin engines powering the rocket’s central core and twin strap-on boosters, and launched at 5:56 p.m. ET from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. It was launched and arced away to the east. Atlantic Ocean.
Huge rocket next to NASA’s much more expensive rocket space launch system moon rocket With liftoff power, it puts on a spectacular show for spaceport workers, local residents and tourists, climbing into the glare of the setting sun over the brilliant jets of fiery exhaust.
It was the fifth flight of Falcon Heavy launched in 2018. Tesla Roadster Pilot a mannequin in a pressurized suit and go to space.
The Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in SpaceX’s inventory, but falls short of the company’s fully reusable Super Heavy/Starship.
If it works as planned, the giant Super Heavy will produce 16 million pounds of thrust. That’s twice as much as NASA’s SLS and three times as much as his Falcon Heavy.
But the triple-core Falcon Heavy made its second national security launch, marking a picture-perfect ascent into space on Sunday.
The two side boosters fired for two minutes before dropping back to the synchronous landing site at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral. Heralded by a shotgun-like sonic boom as usual, the booster flew first in the Space Force Falcon Heavy. last November Both will be used again in the next mission.
After the central core booster fired another minute and a half, it also dropped, leaving the rest of the climb to Falcon Heavy’s second stage. Unlike the side boosters, the core stage used all propellant as planned to complete the ascent from the cyclone, with no recovery possible.
In the second phase, a single vacuum-optimized Merlin engine was used to reach the first parking orbit before heading to the target geostationary orbit at 22,300 miles above the equator. But as usual with many military launches, no details were released.
Space Systems Command said in a pre-launch news release that Falcon Heavy would carry two satellites for mission USSF-67: a military communications relay station and a deployable to host five technology demonstration payloads. satellite.
The Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM (CBAS)-2 is designed to operate in geostationary orbit and “provide communications relay capabilities to support senior leaders and combat commanders,” the release said. “CBAS-2’s mission is to enhance existing military satellite communications capabilities and continuously broadcast military data over space-based satellite relay links.”
The second satellite, Long Duration Propulsive ESPA (LDPE)-3A, is a payload carrier with its own propulsion and navigation systems that “can rapidly place multiple, diverse payloads into orbit and deliver critical data. to inform and influence future U.S. Space Force programs.”
On the USSF-67 mission, the hosted payload included an operational prototype for “enhanced situational awareness” and encryption technology for space-to-ground communications. Two other payloads will likely test space weather sensors and possibly equipment for monitoring other satellites.
The LDPE is “a freight train into space for geostationary earth orbit experiments and prototypes that could emerge on national security space launch missions given the available mass margin,” according to Space Systems Command. said Col. Joseph Ross, Director of Innovation and Prototyping at .
“LDPE’s modular design and standard interfaces provide the perfect platform for hosting a variety of payloads in many mission areas.”