SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket roared to life for the first time in over three years on October 28, ahead of performing the United States Space Force’s USSF-44 mission next week (video below). Engineers performed a static fire test of the rocket’s 27 Merlin 1D engines which are capable of generating more than 5.1 million pounds of thrust upon liftoff. “Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb) Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy,” says SpaceX.
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. Falcon Heavy is composed of a trio of Falcon 9 nine-engine boosters which are capable of returning from orbit with propulsive synchronized landings.
The USSF-44 mission is scheduled to lift off on Tuesday, November 1st. The Falcon Heavy rocket will soar to space from the NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex-39A at 9:40 a.m. ET. SpaceX will Livestream the mission starting 15-minutes before liftoff [date is subject to change]. A video link will be added below this story as soon as it is available.
The USSF-44 mission will deploy two payloads to orbit, the military’s TETRA-1 satellite and the other is a mysterious classified 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 missions due to national security, all that is known is the combined mass of the payloads is around 3,700 kilograms.
The upcoming launch will be the fourth flight of a Falcon Heavy rocket since its debut flight in 2018, which launched a Tesla Roadster with a ‘Starman’ astronaut mannequin as a test payload. The other pair of missions took place in 2019, the heavy-lift vehicle launched the Arabsat telecommunications satellite for Saudi Arabia in April 2019. The third flight took place in June 2019 when it launched the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program payload composed of 24 small spacecraft that were deployed into distinct orbits.
The main reason why SpaceX has not launched many Falcon Heavy flights is because this vehicle is designed to carry super heavy payloads of up to 69 tons, most customers book SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket at a lower cost because their payloads weigh less. SpaceX has launched over 100 Falcon 9 missions while Falcon Heavy remained grounded. SpaceX sells Falcon 9 missions for approximately $67 million and the standard Falcon Heavy flight goes for $97 million dollars. 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.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX