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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the high-altitude tricycle that is the world’s most powerful rocket in operation, launched on Tuesday for the first time since 2019. in the middle returned to heaven.
The missile was launched at 9:41 am. morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, flying satellites into space for the US military on a secret mission called USSF-44.
The Falcon Heavy debuted in 2018 to great fanfare when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk chose to launch his personal Tesla Roadster as a test launch payload. The vehicle is still in space, traveling on an elongated path around the sun that fluctuates up to the orbital path of Mars.
Since that first test mission in 2019, SpaceX launched only two other Falcon Heavy missions. One sent into orbit a huge television and telephone service satellite for Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat, and the other a shipment of US experimental satellites. Department of Defense.
However, the rocket has not been launched since 2019 because most SpaceX missions do not require the power of the Falcon Heavy. On the other hand, SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 has already launched nearly 50 missions this year alone.
With each Falcon Heavy launch, the rocket makes a dramatic display of Earth.
After Tuesday’s mission, the company was just trying to recover the Falcon Heavy rocket’s two first-stage boosters, the tall white sticks that are tied together to boost the rocket after liftoff.
As planned, the center booster was left submerged in the ocean, where it will remain, because it did not have enough fuel left to travel home, according to a news release from the US military’s Space Systems Command.
However, the two side boosters landed synchronously on the ground near the coast of Florida.
Previously, SpaceX attempted to land all three boosters back on land and at sea for refurbishing and reuse on future missions. This is done in order to reduce the costs of business trips. The company has yet to recreate all three, although it has come very close. The two side boosters landed precisely, synchronously, on the ground pads after 2019. in April But then the rough waves in the sea overturned it.
While the Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful rocket in operation, there are two massive rockets waiting in the wings to claim that title.
NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, the rocket currently scheduled to launch later in November to send the unmanned Artemis 1 mission around the moon sits in Kennedy Space Center’s stunning Vehicle Assembly Building, just a few blocks away. miles from the launch pad where the Falcon Heavy will fly.
While the Falcon Heavy puts out about five million pounds of thrust, the SLS is expected to put down as much as 8.8 million pounds of thrust — 15% more thrust than the Saturn V rockets that propelled the moon to the mid-20th century.
Across the Gulf Coast, at SpaceX’s experimental facilities in South Texas, the company is preparing for the first test launch of the Starship orbital spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket. While the test flight still awaits final approval from federal regulators, it could begin by the end of the year.
The Starship system is expected to significantly outperform both the SLS and Falcon Heavy. The upcoming Super Heavy booster to propel the Starship spacecraft into space is expected to withstand about 17 million thrusts alone.
Both the SLS rocket and SpaceX’s starship are integral to NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in half a century.
SpaceX also has its own ambitious vision for Starship: taking people and cargo to Mars in hopes of one day establishing a permanent human settlement there.
There is not much publicly available information about USSF-44’s mission. In a press release, the US military’s Space Systems Command said only that the launch will launch several satellites into orbit on behalf of the Space Systems Command’s Innovation and Prototyping Delta, which is focused on the rapid development of space technologies related to tracking objects in space. as well as many other activities.
Space system management declined to provide additional details about the mission when reached by email. by post She referred questions to the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, which also declined to comment.
The U.S. military is one of the main drivers of the domestic rocket economy, awarding lucrative launch contracts coveted by private launch companies, including SpaceX and its main competitor in the area, United Launch Alliance, a joint operation between Boeing and Lockheed. Martin.