Image Source: Space
The most powerful working rocket in the world. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket, a tall, three-legged vehicle, took to the skies again on Tuesday 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 was part of a secret mission called USSF-44, which sent satellites into space for the US military.
When the Falcon Heavy launched in 2018, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk used his 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’ orbit.
Since that first test flight, SpaceX has only taken off twice with the Falcon Heavy 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 space for the US Department of Defense.
But the rocket has not taken off since 2019 because most SpaceX missions don’t need the extra power of the Falcon Heavy. On the other hand, SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket launched nearly 50 missions this year.
The Falcon Heavy rocket splashes back on Earth every time it takes off.
After Tuesday’s mission, the company only tried to get back two of the first-stage rocket boosters from the Falcon Heavy rocket. So when the rocket takes off, the power comes from these tall white sticks tied together.
According to a news release courtesy of the US military’s Space Systems Command. The center booster was left to fall into the ocean. Where it will stay, because it didn’t have enough fuel left to get back home.
On the other hand, the two side boosters landed in sync on pads on the ground near the coast of Florida.
SpaceX had tried before and failed
SpaceX has tried to land all three of the rocket’s boosters on pads on land, and at sea so they can be fixed up and used again. This is done to save money on mission costs. Unfortunately, the company has yet to be able to get all three, even though it’s been very close. After a mission in April 2019, the rocket’s two side boosters landed precisely and simultaneously on the ground pads. The rocket’s center booster landed on a platform at sea. But then, it fell over because of rough waves at sea.
How the Falcon Heavy Rocket works
Even though Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful working rocket, 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 will try to launch for the first time in November to send the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission around the moon. Then, the Falcon Heavy will take off from a launch pad just a few miles away.
The Falcon Heavy has about 5 million pounds of thrust, while the SLS could have up to 8.8 million pounds. This is 15% more thrust than the Saturn V rockets that powered the moon landings in the 20th century.
And just across the Gulf of Mexico, at SpaceX’s test facilities in South Texas, the company will attempt to launch its Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket into orbit. Even though federal regulators still need to sign off on the test flight, it could happen before the end of the year.
Everything about this mission
The general public does not know about the mission of the USSF-44 yet. However, in a news release, the US military’s Space Systems Command said the launch would put multiple satellites into orbit. For the Innovation and Prototyping Delta focused on quickly developing space technology for tracking objects in space.
When contacted by email, the Space System Command said it would not give any more information about the mission. Instead, it sent questions to the Office of the Air Force’s Secretary, who declined to comment.
The US military is one of the leading forces behind the domestic rocket industry. It gives private launch companies like SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. A partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, lucrative contracts to launch satellites.