On November 1st, SpaceX launched the world’s most powerful operational rocket to deploy United States Space Force satellites. The Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off at 9:41 a.m. ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex-39A in Florida, carrying a pair of classified satellites to space for the military’s USSF-44 mission. The rocket soared into the sky for the first time since 2019, it marked the fourth time SpaceX has ever used the heavy-lift rocket configuration. Falcon Heavy is composed of a trio of Falcon 9 nine-engine boosters which are capable of returning from orbit with propulsive synchronized landings.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/gcLtIWizoF— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 1, 2022
The Falcon Heavy's 27 Merlin 1D engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff and are capable of lifting into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb). It 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.
Soon after deploying the center upper-stage fairing to orbit, Falcon Heavy’s two side-core rocket boosters performed amazing landings. SpaceX shared an incredible video of the boosters landing almost simultaneously on ground pads, linked below. "Falcon Heavy’s side boosters have landed – marking the 150th and 151st recovery of orbital class rockets," said SpaceX soon after touchdown. The company typically launches previously-flown boosters, however, during the USSF-44 mission it used brand new rockets "which will be prepared for re-flight on a future U.S. Space Force mission later this year," said SpaceX. The center core booster performed a planned splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a press release by the U.S. military's Space Systems Command. They were unable to recover it because the mission requirement made use of most of the fuel and there was not enough left for a propulsive landing. The USSF-44 mission was the first time a SpaceX rocket transported payloads directly to geostationary orbit.
Falcon Heavy’s side boosters have landed – marking the 150th and 151st recovery of orbital class rockets pic.twitter.com/vK4ZdfDQtX— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 1, 2022
The USSF-44 mission launched the military’s TETRA-1 satellite and a mysterious payload into geosynchronous orbit. TETRA-1 is a military satellite designed to “prototype missions and tactics, techniques and procedures in and around geosynchronous Earth orbit,” according to U.S. Space Force officials. The payload includes six small satellites designed for monitoring weather. The military does not release many details about missions due to national security, all that is known is the combined mass of the payloads is around 4.079 US tons ( 3,700 kilograms).
Featured Image Source: SpaceX