SpaceX’s stunning USSF-67 Falcon Heavy launch in pictures

On January 15th, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket took off for the second time in 75 days to launch another batch of US military payloads into orbits tens of thousands of kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

Six and a half hours later, the US Space Systems Command (SSC) confirmed that the Falcon Heavy had once again completed the exceptionally difficult launch without issue. To deliver USSF-67 mission payloads directly to geosynchronous orbit (GSO), SpaceX’s giant rocket had to sacrifice one of its reusable boosters and complete A six-hour complex ballet of rolls, burns, and spacecraft deployments. And for the second time in a row, Falcon Heavy has done so without apparent problem.

In an SSC press release [PDF], Maj. Gen. Stephen Purdy, executive officer for the Assured Space Access Program, said the group “had another great launch today aboard a Falcon Heavy.” He added that “while the launch itself was impressive”, he was “very proud of the fact that we have put the importance [national] capabilities in space. And it was an impressive launch for sure.

(Richard Angel)
(Richard Angel)

Mashhad Falcon (Heavy)

As previously discussedUSSF-67 was the first twilight launch of the Falcon Heavy. It caused the exceptional thrust of the Falcon 9 rocket, from which the Falcon Heavy is derived Twilight releases and the Incredible light shows It can result to become a fairly routine phenomenon. But less than five years after its February 2018 debut, there has never been a Falcon Heavy launch of “jellyfish” or “nebula.” Fortunately that changed on Sunday.

The rocket lifted off just ten minutes or so after sunset and flew into a pale purple sky. That sky was still relatively bright at ground level, which reduced the amount of contrast, but the resulting light show was still stunning with the Falcon Heavy’s massive exhaust plume rising into the sunlight. An artificial sunrise illuminated that column-like shaft with the colors of sunrise and, eventually, bright daylight.

The most exciting Falcon Heavy launch yet. (Richard Angel)

Close-up views enabled by tracking telescopes captured the real drama, which began shortly after Falcon Heavy’s twin boosters separated from the rocket’s main core stage and upper stage, flipped, and ignited their engines to return to the Florida coast. Just just took off. As the central core of nine engines continued toward space, each engine fired one and then three Merlin 1D engines for their return burns.

A scene from Astronomy Live captured the moment the booster burn ignited, as the side boosters visibly fired “craters” into the core of the Falcon’s more powerful heavy center. As these plumes interact, fluid dynamics and light from Merlin 1D’s multiple engines combine to create chaotic bands of orange, red and yellow – similar to an explosive nebula. The earlier moments were also stunning as the two lateral boosters, lit by direct sunlight against an almost black sky, began to float gently away from the center core and spin with bursts of several nitrogen gas thrusts – a brief moment of serenity before the violence of the engine ignition.

on a chariot of fire

But as Maj. Gen. Purdy noted, USSF-67 was intended—regardless of scenery—to carry a number of important payloads into orbit.

After both side boosters landed, SpaceX ended its live coverage at the request of the Space Force, reiterating the mission’s covert nature and agent. The USSF hasn’t confirmed much about the USSF-67 mission payloads, but the Falcon Heavy is known to carry a geostationary communications satellite. CBAS-2 is called the It is likely to be made by Boeing. Joining Northrop Grumman’s third long-duration EELV or LDPE-3A, CBAS-2 is a combination of a thruster kicking stage and a satellite. Holds LDPE-3A A group of flight sharing satellites The payloads are designed to last for months in orbit. Using the USSF-44 as a guide, the gross payload could weigh the USSF-67 Approximately 3.75 to 4.75 tons (8250-10500 lbs.). “ – January 15, 2023

The same SSC press release provides more detail, noting that the LDPE-3A carries two hosted payloads – Catcher and WASSAT. The catcher is a space weather instrument Developed by Aerospace CorporationWhile WASSAT is a prototype [PDF] It is a wide-angle monitoring instrument designed to track other GSO satellites. LDPE also hosts “three payloads developed by the Rapid Space Capabilities Office (SRCO),” including “two operational prototypes to enhance situational awareness, and an operational prototype encryption/interface encryption payload that provides secure space-to-Earth communications capability.”

Display of LDPE composite. (Noretrop Grumman)

Two down, one to go

For Falcon Heavy side boosters B1064 and B1065, both of which support USSF-44 and USSF-67, their missions are far from over. Their successful second landing along with the boosters led to them being reused in a third US military launch called USSF-52. Originally known as AFSPC-52, the mission marked Falcon Heavy’s first operational US military launch contract, and marked the first time the missile had beaten rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) during a competitive procurement process.

Next space flight Reports indicate that the USSF-52 launch is scheduled for no later than April 10, 2023, which is less than three months from now. Once that mission is complete, the Falcon Heavy will have no more US military missions under contract, though more will almost certainly be rewarded sooner rather than later. USSF-52 is sandwiched between two other Falcon Heavy launches. Next space flight Reports too That Falcon Heavy could launch the ViaSat-3 communications satellite as early as March 2023 and Jupiter-3 (EchoStar 24) as early as May 2023 makes for a busy 90 days.

For this trio to happen as scheduled, SpaceX would have to beat Falcon Heavy’s 75-day record, which coincidentally (?) happened twice: first between Arabsat 6A and STP-2, and again between USSF-44 and STP-2. USSF-67. Including USSF-67, SpaceX has as many as five Falcon Heavy launches scheduled this year.

SpaceX’s stunning USSF-67 Falcon Heavy launch in pictures

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