SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket, a tall, three-legged vehicle that is the world’s most powerful working rocket, took to the skies again for the first time since 2019.
At 9:41 a.m. ET, the rocket took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It carried satellites for the US military into space on a secret mission called USSF-44.
In 2018, when the Falcon Heavy made its debut, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk launched his own Tesla Roadster as a test payload. The car is still in space, going around the sun in an elliptical path that swings as far as Mars’ orbital path.
Since that first test flight, SpaceX has only sent the Falcon Heavy into space twice in 2019. One launched a big TV and phone service satellite for Saudi Arabia’s Arabsat, and the other sent a group of test satellites to the US Department of Defense.
But the rocket has not taken off since 2019 since most SpaceX missions don’t need the extra power of the Falcon Heavy. On the other hand, SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket launched almost 50 missions this year.
The Falcon Heavy rocket splashes back on Earth each time it takes off.
After Tuesday’s mission, the company only tried to get back two first-stage rocket boosters for the Falcon Heavy rocket. The rocket’s power comes from these tall white sticks tied together.
According to a release from the US military’s Space Systems Command, the center booster fell into the ocean. Where it will stay, because it did not have enough fuel left to get back home.
On the other hand, the two side boosters landed in sync on ground pads near the coast of Florida.
SpaceX’s previous attempts
In the past, SpaceX has tried to land all three of the rocket’s boosters on landing pads on land and at sea. So that they can be fixed up and used again in the future. It does this to keep mission costs down. Unfortunately, the company has yet to get all three back, even though it’s been very close. After a mission in April 2019, the rocket’s two side boosters landed perfectly on ground pads simultaneously, and the center booster landed on a ship. But then, it fell over because of rough seas.
Details of the Falcon Heavy Rocket
Even though Falcon Heavy is the most powerful working rocket in the world, two much bigger rockets are ready to take its place.
NASA’s Space Launch System, or SLS, the rocket is in the tall Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center. It is set to try its first launch in November. To send the uncrewed Artemis 1 on a mission around the moon. After that, the Falcon Heavy will take off from a launch pad just a few miles away.
SLS is expected to put out up to 8.8 million pounds of thrust, 15% more thrust than the Saturn V rockets that powered the moon landings in the middle of the 20th century.
And just across the Gulf of Mexico, at SpaceX’s test facilities in South Texas. The company is getting ready for the first attempt to launch its Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket into orbit. Even though federal regulators still need to give their final approval, the test flight could happen before December.
About the mission
The public does not know the exact mission of the USSF-44. The US military’s Space Systems Command said the launch would put multiple satellites into orbit for the Innovation and Prototyping Delta. Which is focused on quickly developing space technology for tracking objects in space and doing a variety of other things.
When contacted by email, the Space System Command refused to give more information about the mission. Instead, it sent questions to the Office of the Air Force’s Secretary, who refused to comment.
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The US military is one of the main drivers of the domestic rocket economy. It gives private launch companies like SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. A partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, lucrative contracts to launch satellites.