Falcon Heavy launch: SpaceX’s most powerful rocket returns to flight

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, the towering launch vehicle known for the aerial acrobatics of its boosters and simultaneous descent upon return to Earth, soared into the skies Sunday, delivering national security payloads into orbit for the US military.

The mission, named USSF-67, lifted off at 5:56 p.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking the fifth successful flight for the rocket that was recently dethroned as the most powerful operational launch vehicle in the world. This task was in the beginning Advertised It will start on Saturday, and it was not immediately clear what caused the one-day delay.

The Falcon Heavy debuted to great fanfare in 2018 when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk He attached his personal car Tesla Roadster as a test load at launch. The Car still in spacetaking an elongated path around the sun that swings all the way to the orbital path of Mars.

The missile followed that test mission with two launches in 2019 before being halted for three years; The vast majority of SpaceX’s missions don’t require a power booster than the Falcon Heavy. On the other hand, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched more than 60 times in 2022 alone, sending two rockets groups of astronauts as well Starlink satellites and a variety of other spacecraft.

But SpaceX is now making good money Military launch contracts I signed up for the Falcon Heavy years ago. The missile was back in the air in November with the launch of the US Army USSF-44 missionand its Sunday takeoff was a follow-up to that show.

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“USSF-44 included six payloads on a single satellite advancing communications, space weather sensing, and other technologies in near-Earth orbit,” according to the Army. Space Operations Command.

USSF-67 will use the same type of spacecraft Deployed on USSF-44, it’s called LDPE, and it’s basically an outer space bus that can carry smaller satellites. The Falcon Heavy also carried a Communication satellitecalled SATCOM Enhanced Continuous Broadcast, for the US Space Force.

Additional details about the satellites in Sunday’s mission were not immediately available.

With each launch, the Falcon Heavy rocket puts on a dramatic show on Earth.

After Sunday’s mission, the company recovered two of the Falcon Heavy rocket’s first-stage boosters — long white sticks strapped together to give the rocket its increased power at liftoff. After expending most of its fuel, the side boosters fell away from the center core and reoriented themselves to cut back through Earth’s atmosphere.

As they neared the ground, the boosters reignited their engines and completed a simultaneous landing on land platforms near the coast of Florida. It’s a signature move for SpaceX, which routinely recovers and reuses its rocket boosters to reduce launch costs.

SpaceX did not attempt to restore the booster center due to fuel requirements.

The company hasn’t managed to recover all three boosters yet, though it’s getting close. The two side boosters made precise, simultaneous landings on ground platforms after the April 2019 mission, and the rocket’s center booster landed on an offshore platform. But Heavy waves toppled him.

For years, the Falcon Heavy was the most powerful operational rocket in the world. But in November, NASA’s new moon rocket, called the Space Launch System, or SLS, stole that title with it. Inaugural launch. SLS launched the Unoccupied Artemis mission 1 around the Moon, paving the way for future missions with astronauts on board.

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While the Falcon Heavy gives about 5 Million pounds of thrust, the SLS is put out as much 8.8 million pounds of thrust – 15% more than the Saturn V rockets that powered the Apollo moon landings.

At its test facilities in South Texas, SpaceX is entering the final stages of preparation for the first attempted orbital launch of its Starship spacecraft and heavy rocket. Although the test flight is still Awaiting final approval from federal regulators, it could kick off in the coming weeks.

If successful, SpaceX’s Starship would dethrone the SLS as the most powerful rocket to fly today.

The Starship system is expected to outperform both the SLS and the Falcon Heavy. The upcoming Super Heavy booster, designed to catapult the Starship spacecraft into space, is expected to be delayed. 17 million pounds of thrust.

However, it is not all competition. Both the SLS rocket and SpaceX’s Starship are an integral part of NASA Plans to return astronauts to the lunar surface For the first time in half a century.

SpaceX has its own ambitious vision for the Starship: to transport humans and cargo to Mars in hopes of one day establishing a permanent human settlement there.

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