SpaceX prepares for Falcon Heavy’s second national security launch

SpaceX plans to launch Falcon Heavy’s second national security mission for the US Space Force on January 13 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. This will be the fifth launch of Falcon Heavy, the world’s largest and most powerful commercial rocket.

Return of the Falcon Heavy

Last November, the Falcon Heavy took off after more than three years of absence as part of the USSF-44 mission, on behalf of the Pentagon. It was also SpaceX’s first direct geosynchronous launch, meaning the rocket delivered its payloads about 36,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

The Falcon Heavy’s next launch was originally expected to place the first ViaSat-3 broadband satellite into orbit before the end of the year. Finally, the satellite is still not ready. Instead, the rocket’s first launch of the year will involve a classified payload on behalf of the US Space Force.

For this mission called USSF-67which will be launched on January 13, SpaceX had pocketed $316 million in August 2020. This will also be the second national security launch for this rocket model.

The two side boosters of Falcon Heavy recovered during the previous mission will be reused again for this one. SpaceX will attempt to land them on Cape Canaveral landing zones 1 and 2. On the other hand, the central core will not be recovered.

The mission will carry two payloads. The first – SATCOM (CBAS)-2 – is a military communications satellite. Specific capabilities and features are categorized. The second payload is an experimental LDPE (Long Duration Propulsive EELV Secondary Payload Adapter) class satellite built for the US Air Force Space and the Missile Center allowing the transport and deployment of small secondary satellites.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on February 6, 2018. Credits: SpaceX

A busy year

According to the SpaceX manifesto, the Falcon Heavy should fly at least five times This year. Several long-delayed payloads, such as the first ViaSat-3 and Jupiter-3 satellites, should be ready for launch during this first quarter. The American probe Psyche will also fly to the Asteroid Belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. His target: 16- Psyche, one of the most massive objects in the region.

With its 200 kilometers in diameter, the asteroid is composed exclusively of iron and nickel. If it is, incidentally, a real gold mine, the object interests NASA more for two other points. On the one hand, Psyche would be the corpse of an ancient planet similar to Mars. On the other hand, NASA has so far never had the opportunity to study an object that is not composed of stone or ice.

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