Science

SpaceX launches powerful Falcon Heavy rocket on classified Space Force mission

SpaceX Launch
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket heads into space after blastoff from historic Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center carrying a collection of classified US Space Force payloads.

SpaceX


The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying a suite of classified US Space Force payloads exploded on the rocket’s fourth flight on Tuesday, a first for the nation’s most powerful operational launcher since 2019 and a spectacular side-by-side for the first time since Side landing facility. Two strap-on boosters.

Partially obscured by dense fog, liftoff from historic Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center came at 9:41 a.m. EDT when the giant rocket’s 27 Merlin first-stage engines, each of three of the nine Falcon 9 boosters, simultaneously were tied. Ignite with a thrust of over 5 million pounds, power equivalent to 18 747 jumbo jets.

After a final round of lightning-fast computer investigations, the 230-foot-tall Falcon Heavy, tipping the scales at about 3.1 million pounds, was released to roar skyward, a ground gust to the east over the Atlantic Ocean. -Hilling was in direct. Ascending in a circular orbit 22,300 miles above the equator.

The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the US inventory, but that honor is expected to pass to NASA’s giant Space Launch System booster when it first takes off later this month to send an unpiloted Orion crew capsule around the Moon. Will fill ,

The title of most-powerful-rocket will then be handed to SpaceX’s gargantuan super heavy-starship when it finally explodes on maiden flight later this year or early next.

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

SpaceX


That said, the Falcon Heavy did not disappoint, putting on a dramatic sky show as it rose out of the fog blanketing the spaceport above a spectacular jet of fire exhaust, the roar of its 27 engines in the morning. was shattering the peace.

The Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters, both making their maiden flight, were programmed to reverse course moments after separation and restart each of the three engines to reverse course. Another firing slowed the booster to return to the dense lower atmosphere.

Dropping toward the ground, the booster restarted its central core engine, deployed the landing legs and settled for a picture-perfect, side-by-side touchdown on the concrete pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, as Florida Sonic booms rumble in the U.K. Space Coast.

The landings at the Space Force Station were 24th and 25th and SpaceX’s 150th and 151st successful Falcon-family booster recoveries.

Unlike the side boosters, the main stage of the Falcon Heavy, also making its first flight, used all of its propellant to push the second stage out of the lower atmosphere and into space. There was no recovery plan.

The launch marked the first fully operational dedicated national security payload to fly aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. But details about the classified cargo were scant and SpaceX ended its launch commentary with a side booster touchdown.

Walt Lauderdale, mission director for the USSF-44 launch, said in a statement ahead of the launch, “We have worked side by side with SpaceX to ensure that the Falcon Heavy meets all of our requirements and is a successful launch.” “

“This will be the first Falcon Heavy launch in three years and we are excited to bring these payloads into space. This launch is a significant milestone and continues a strong partnership that will continue to build the capability that will serve the nation for years to come. strengthening.”

The nose cone of the second stage had two payloads mounted on top of each other, one known as the Shepherd Demonstration and the other a carrier spacecraft known as Long Duration Propulsive ESPA, or LDPE 2, with half There were a dozen sub payloads.

“The LDPE platform is a standardized satellite bus that can host multiple payloads, including individual spacecraft,” the Space Force said in a statement. “This approach makes rideshare more affordable for a wide range of small and secondary payloads and takes several steps to accelerate the USSF’s pivot to new, more flexible space architectures.”

The Shepherd Demonstration Satellite “hosts payloads that accelerate mature technologies and risk reduction efforts,” the Space Force told Spaceflight Now in response to a question about its nature.

A spokesman said the satellite carried several Space Force payloads, but gave no details.

110122-tesla-heavy.jpg
The first flight of a Falcon Heavy in 2018 promoted a Tesla Roadster into space as a display that provided stunning views of a space-friendly mannequin in the driver’s seat with Earth as a backdrop.

SpaceX


Falcon Heavy was launched on First Flight In February 2018, famously promoting a dummy payload – a cherry red Tesla Roadster Carrying a spacesuit mannequin in the driver’s seat – in deep space. The rocket’s two outboard boosters executed side-by-side landings, attracting worldwide attention.

its Second flight in April 2019 27 was the first to use three advanced “Block 5” core boosters with more efficient Merlin engines, three per core stage, and an upper stage powered by a single engine. The company recovered all three main boosters, with two landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the third on an off-shore drone ship.

heavy Third flight arrived in June 2019 When the rocket propelled a collection of Air Force and civilian satellites into orbit, the rocket won official Pentagon certification for dedicated national security missions. The USSF-44 flight, which launched on Tuesday, was the first of two missions that are currently on the SpaceX manifest.

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