SpaceX completed a record-breaking launch manifest in 2021, it performed a total of 31 missions – the most annual launches to date. SpaceX’s 2022 launch manifest is expected to beat last year’s rocket launch record, besides launching crew and cargo aboard Falcon 9 flights, the company will also conduct missions with it’s Falcon Heavy rocket. It is the world’s most powerful operational rocket and the third highest capacity launch vehicle ever to reach orbit, following NASA’s Saturn V rocket and Russia’s Energia rocket which are no longer operational. Falcon Heavy is comprised 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. Falcon Heavy missions are always impressive to watch, especially when SpaceX recover all three Falcon cores with synchronized propulsive landings, as pictured below.
Two Falcon Heavy cores landing. / Source: SpaceX
The beast’s last spaceflight was 2 years, 6 months, 22 days ago. After being dormant for over two years, SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy will conduct multiple missions in 2022. The launch vehicle has only performed three missions since its debut flight in 2018. The demonstration flight test that launched the iconic Tesla Roadster that carried the Starman mannequin to orbit on February 6, 2018. Yes, there is a literal car cruising out in our Solar System! As of today, the Roadster is 230,752,755 miles from Earth, moving away from our planet at a speed of 11,392 miles per hour, according to tracking data by whereisroadster.com. The awe-inspiring launch demonstrated three-core rocket can reliably launch heavy payload to space.
Real Image of the Tesla Roadster in space February 2018. | Source: SpaceX Broadcast
SpaceX’s second Falcon Heavy mission deployed a telecommunications satellite for Arabsat in April 2019. The third and last flight took place on June 25, 2019, it launched the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program payload composed of 25 small spacecraft. After a long gap, SpaceX has multiple Falcon Heavy missions planned for 2022 that will all lift off from historic Launch Complex-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The most exciting mission to look forward to will occur in August 2022, SpaceX Falcon Heavy will launch NASA’s Psyche spacecraft on a robotic mission to explore a 140-miles-wide metal-rich asteroid called ’16-Psyche’. “Falcon Heavy will launch NASA Psyche! The mission, for which NASA requires the highest level of launch vehicle reliability, will study a metal asteroid between Mars and Jupiter to help humanity better understand the formation of our solar system’s planets,” SpaceX stated. NASA is paying the company around $117 Million for launch services and other mission-related costs.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy will also conduct national security missions for the U.S. Space Force (USSF). SpaceX initially aimed to launch a Falcon Heavy flight for the USSF last year, however, U.S. military representatives said that the mission was been delayed until 2022 due to payload readiness. The mission, known as USSF-44, will deploy a pair of spacecraft directly into geosynchronous orbit, the military’s TETRA-1 satellite and the other is a classified payload. The company targets to launch USSF-44 during the first half of 2022. Falcon Heavy will also launch the USSF-52 that will deploy an undisclosed payload during the second quarter of 2022. The government pays SpaceX over $130 Million per Falcon Heavy flight to conduct each national security mission. The military might also decide to launch the USSF-67 mission atop a Falcon Heavy rocket before this year ends. It will likely have a higher price tag because it will require new infrastructure; SpaceX agreed to build a vertical integration building and an increased rocket fairing size for future U.S. military missions launched from the Florida Space Coast.
All Featured Images Source: SpaceX