Featured Image Source: Millennium Space Systems
SpaceX earned a military contract in February 2019 to conduct the USSF-44 mission, which will deploy multiple satellites atop a Falcon Heavy rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, before the year ends. The Falcon Heavy rocket is made up of three modified Falcon 9 first-stage boosters connected; it is one of the most powerful launch vehicles in the world. Its 27 Merlin 1D engines are capable of producing 5.1 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The USSF-44 mission, will be the fourth flight of a Falcon Heavy rocket and the first mission to fall under the new military branch, the United States Space Force.
Falcon Heavy rocket / Source: SpaceX
The military’s Space and Missile Systems Center, suggested the USSF-44 launch will deploy two military payloads into geosynchronous orbit (could be more) at an altitude of about 22,236 miles above Earth’s surface, along the equator. One of the payloads that is ready for deployment, is a microsatellite called TETRA-1. It is manufactured by Millennium Space Systems, a subsidiary of Boeing located in El Segundo, California. The TETRA-1 satellite is the first prototype to earn a contract under the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Enterprise Consortium Other Transaction Authority (OTA) charter. The company announced in a press release: “Less than 15 months after contract award, Millennium Space Systems has designed, manufactured, assembled, and integrated the U.S. Space Force TETRA-1 satellite. The work was completed 60 percent faster than previous missions, improving the U.S. Space Force’s ability to advance the TETRA-1 technologies more quickly.”
Mark Cherry, Vice President and general manager of Boeing Phantom Works, announced TETRA-1 is ready for deployment. He wrote in a statement:
“The pace set on TETRA-1 from contract award through readiness to launch represents what Boeing does best for our national security customers. Our lean Millennium team was up to the task, building and delivering a fully tested and verified satellite in record time.”
Ready for launch. Millennium Space Systems completed the @AF_SMC TETRA-1 small satellite 60% faster than prior missions, improving the ability of @SpaceForceDoD to advance tech more quickly. You can see our team working in this February photo.— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) April 21, 2020
Release: https://t.co/baPWOJ6234 pic.twitter.com/PClMNs9jpf
According to Millennium Space Systems, the TETRA-1 microsatellite was manufactured to “prototype missions and tactics, techniques and procedures in and around geosynchronous Earth orbit.” Military officials have not released any additional details about TETRA-1’s mission. It could be because it is a national security operation.
The U.S. Space Force has not made public what other satellites will be deployed atop Falcon Heavy during the USSF-44 mission.