SpaceX will soon launch the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time since 2019, potentially before the end of this month. Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful operational rocket, and 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. 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. SpaceX usually attempts to recover all three Falcon cores with synchronized propulsive landings which is always impressive to watch.
Falcon Heavy has only performed three missions since 2018. The first was a demonstration flight test that launched the iconic Tesla Roadster with the 'Starman' astronaut mannequin in the driver's seat. The mission inspired thousands around the world to be curious about space exploration and engineering. SpaceX’s second Falcon Heavy mission deployed the Arabsat telecommunications satellite for Saudi Arabia in April 2019. The third flight took place in June 2019, it launched the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program payload composed of 24 small spacecraft. The mission showcased SpaceX's capabilities to perform complex missions by placing the two-dozen payloads into distinct orbits.
After a three-year gap, SpaceX aims to launch a Falcon Heavy mission for the U.S. Space Force (USSF) scheduled for NET (no earlier than) October 28; the military has not announced the specific liftoff time yet. The mission is known as USSF-44. It will launch from historic Launch Complex-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to deploy a pair of classified payloads directly into geosynchronous orbit. One of the payloads is identified as TETRA-1, and the other payload is a mysterious payload. TETRA-1 is a military satellite designed to “prototype missions and tactics, techniques and procedures in and around geosynchronous Earth orbit,” according to Space Force officials. The military does not release many details about classified missions due to national security. The U.S. Space Force paid SpaceX approximately $130 million dollars for launch services. The USSF-44 mission has been delayed for around 2 years due to undisclosed payload issues, it was originally scheduled to launch in 2020.
There is another Falcon Heavy mission in SpaceX's 2022 launch manifest, the powerful three-core rocket is also set to deploy a commercial mission for two companies that will share a ride. It will launch ViaSat's ViaSat-3 broadband communications satellite and Astranis' Arcturus satellite toward geostationary orbit, scheduled for NET November [date pending].
SpaceX has multiple Falcon Heavy missions to look forward to in 2023, including the launch of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft towards an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The robotic mission is set to explore a 140-miles-wide metal-rich asteroid called '16-Psyche’ to help humanity better understand the formation of our Solar System’s planets. The mission was scheduled to lift off in August this year but NASA delayed it "due to the late delivery of the [Psyche] spacecraft’s flight software and testing equipment."
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Featured Images Source: SpaceX
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.