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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, a towering launch vehicle known for its booster’s aerial acrobatics and synchronized landing on its return to Earth, blasted off Sunday to deliver a national security payload into orbit for the U.S. military.
The mission, known as USSF-67, lifted off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 5:56 p.m. ET, marking the rocket’s fifth recent successful flight, making it the world’s most powerful launch vehicle. The mission was initially advertised as launching on Saturday, and the reason for the one-day delay was unclear.
The Falcon Heavy debuted to much fanfare in 2018, when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk used his personal Tesla Roadster as a launch test payload. The car is still in space, traveling around the sun on an elliptical orbit that extends to the orbit of Mars.
The rocket made two launches in 2019 following a test mission, followed by a three-year hiatus; the vast majority of SpaceX’s missions don’t require the Falcon Heavy’s boosted power.On the other hand, SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket has launched more than 60 times in 2022 alone, sending two A group of astronauts go into space and Starlink Satellite and various other spacecraft.
But SpaceX now relies on huge profits A military launch contract for the Falcon Heavy was awarded many years ago. Sunday’s liftoff was a follow-up to the show, with the rocket returning to flight in November following the launch of the U.S. military’s USSF-44 mission.
“USSF-44 contains six payloads on a single satellite to propel communications, space weather sensing and other technologies into near-geosynchronous orbit,” the military’s Space Combat Command said.
The same type of spacecraft will be used as USSF-67 Deployed on USSF-44, it’s called LDPE, which is essentially an outer space bus that can carry smaller satellites. Falcon Heavy also carries a communications satellite called Continuous Broadcast Augmented Satellite Communications for the U.S. Space Force.
Further details about the satellites in Sunday’s mission were not immediately available.
Every time it launches, Falcon Heavy puts on a dramatic show here on Earth.
After Sunday’s mission, the company retrieved the Falcon Heavy’s two first-stage boosters — tall white sticks tied together to give the rocket more power as it lifts off. After depleting most of its fuel, the side boosters were detached from the center core and repositioned to cut back into Earth’s atmosphere.
As they approached the ground, the boosters reignited their engines and made a synchronized landing on a ground pad near the Florida coastline. It’s a signature move for SpaceX, which routinely salvages and reuses its rocket boosters to keep launch costs down.
SpaceX did not attempt to recover the hub booster due to fuel requirements.
The company has yet to succeed in retrieving all three boosters, though it has come close. Following a mission in April 2019, the side boosters made a precisely synchronized landing on ground pads, and the rocket’s center booster landed on a nautical platform. But rough waves tossed it over.
For many years, the Falcon Heavy rocket was the most powerful combat rocket in the world. But in November, NASA’s new moon rocket, called the Space Launch System, or SLS, stole that title on its first launch. SLS launch This The Artemis 1 mission around the moon was canceled, paving the way for future missions with astronauts on board.
Although the Falcon Heavy launched about 5 Million pounds of thrust, the SLS has a whopping 8.8 million pounds of thrust — 15 percent more than the Saturn V rocket that powered the Apollo moon landings.
At its experimental facility in South Texas, SpaceX is in the final stages of preparing for the first orbital launch attempt of its Starship and Super Heavy rockets. Although the test flight is still awaiting final approval from federal regulators, it could take off in the next few weeks.
If successful, SpaceX’s Starship will replace the SLS as the most powerful flying rocket today.
The Starship system is expected to outperform the SLS and Falcon Heavy. The upcoming Super Heavy booster, designed to lift Starship into space, is expected to generate about 17 million pounds of thrust.
However, it’s not exactly a game. Both the SLS rocket and SpaceX’s Starship are integral to NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century.
SpaceX has its own ambitious vision for Starship: ferrying people and cargo to Mars, where it hopes to one day establish a permanent human settlement.