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SpaceX launches first Falcon heavy in three years

November 1, at 9:40 am E.T. from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center

Since June of 2019 we’ve all waited for the next Falcon Heavy launch. The most powerful rocket in existence, by a factor of two, for now launched this morning carrying two classified satellites into a geostationary orbit for the U.S. Space Force. Being only the fourth ever Falcon Heavy to launch it was much anticipated, and spectators lined the streets of Titusville to watch the launch and hear the sonic booms of the twin booster landing back ashore at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Many were met with some disappointment however as a heavy fog covered the launch pad and surrounding area during the launch period. That didn’t stop the rumble from all twenty-seven Merlin engines from carrying throughout the area, or the ginormous sonic booms which occurred when two Falcon boosters touched down almost simultaneously about eight minutes after launch. The center core, one of the three Falcon 9s strapped together went on the crash into the Atlantic Ocean. To maximize fuel capacity there was no recovery attempt made and this booster flew sans grid fins, and landing legs as those are only needed for recovery attempts.

This mission, the USSF-44 was the first National Security Space Launch on a SpaceX Falcon heavy and was simply outstanding said Brigadier General Stephen Purdy, Space Force’s program executive officer. This mission was also the first time SpaceX deployed payloads directly into a near geosynchronous orbit more than twenty-thousand miles over the equator. Ten minutes after liftoff SpaceX confirmed the upper stage reached its preliminary parking orbit, and then the Heavy’s upper stage coasted for more than six hours before reigniting its engine for the maneuver to inject the satellites into a proper orbit.

Though much is not known about the payloads launched today we know one was the TETRA-1 and we don’t know the other. TETRA-1 was designed and built by Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing company and completed in 2020. It is a microsatellite designed for various prototype missions in and around a geosynchronous orbit. These satellites were originally slated to launch back in 2020, but the global pandemic and a multitude of delays caused the launch to come only now. This is on par with numerous other Falcon Heavy launches, as there is a back log of about a dozen more to come in the near future. Today’s launch does come as the fiftieth mission of the year for SpaceX, a momentous milestone for the company, which with each launch pushes their annual record further. The booster landings also make the 150th, and 151st for the company, and the 192nd launch of a Falcon rocket since 2006.

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