SpaceX launched its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket for the sixth time ever on April 30th at 8:26 p.m EDT to deploy satellites owned by three different companies: ViaSat, Astranis, and Gravity Space. SpaceX has only ever launched the Falcon Heavy rocket six times since 2018 because the heavy-lift vehicle is only required to launch massive payloads to space. Falcon Heavy consists of three modified Falcon 9 first-stage boosters connected side-by-side, with a total of 27 Merlin 1D engines that are capable of producing 5.1 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. It is one of the world's most powerful operational rockets, behind NASA’s Space Launch System and SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy that recently took flight. Falcon Heavy is the third highest-capacity launch vehicle to ever reach orbit, following NASA’s Saturn V rocket and Russia’s Energia rocket which are no longer operational. SpaceX shared an amazing video of the three-core rocket lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday, shown below.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/EQMJRunDXH— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 1, 2023
SpaceX usually recovers Falcon boosters on every mission for future reuse, however, the three first-stage boosters utilized on this mission were not recovered because they utilized all their fuel to propel the heavy payloads to Geostationary orbit (GEO) at an altitude of around 35,700 kilometers above Earth. Falcon Heavy’s upper-stage released ViaSat, Astranis, and Gravity Space satellites around 4.5 hours after liftoff in a separate sequence. The company confirmed successful deployment of all satellites.
ViaSat is a telecommunications company that provides internet service to customers globally. The mission first deployed ViaSat’s bus-sized broadband satellite called ‘ViaSat-3 Americas’. The satellite is huge – it is 144 feet long when its solar arrays expand and weighs around 6 metric tons (6,400 kilograms). It is why the company required SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to propel it into GEO at an altitude of around 35,000 kilometers over Earth’s equator. “Viasat-3 is expected to be the world's highest-capacity satellite and will be the largest all-electric satellite ever to be launched,” said SpaceX propulsion engineer Atticus Vadera during the launch live broadcast.
The second payload that was deployed is Astranis Space Technologies’ telecommunications satellite named ‘Arcturus’. It hitched-a-ride aboard this Falcon Heavy mission. Arcturus is a much smaller communication satellite that weighs 300 kilograms, designed to beam Internet data over Alaska and nearby territories. Astranis shared an astounding photo of the satellite’s deployment with planet Earth thousands of kilometers away, pictured below.
Hello world. pic.twitter.com/UL1gnKhuMD— Astranis Space Technologies (@Astranis) May 1, 2023
The third payload that was deployed is Gravity Space’s GS-1, which is a CubeSat (a very small satellite). “Our primary mission is to provide communication services for IOTs (Internet of Things),” the company says, “The spacecraft is also designed to provide orbital slot reservation services (BIU) around the geosynchronous arc. The spacecraft features three wideband frequency bands.The spacecraft will also carry an imaging system capable of imaging both the Earth and spatial bodies, as well as an experimental rendezvous and docking payload.”
Falcon Heavy pic.twitter.com/g6Ix8RLgVS— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 1, 2023
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Featured Images Source: Elon Musk via Twitter & SpaceX Mission Broadcast
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.