From start to finish, Sunday’s Falcon Heavy launch delivered spectacular images

From start to finish, Sunday’s Falcon Heavy launch delivered spectacular images

From start to finish, Sunday’s Falcon Heavy launch delivered spectacular images

From start to finish, Sunday’s Falcon Heavy launch delivered spectacular images
Enlarge / A Falcon Heavy rocket launched from Florida about 10 minutes after sunset on Sunday.

Trevor Mahlman

The Falcon Heavy rocket made its fifth launch in five years from Florida on Sunday evening. However, this was the first launch of the triple-core booster at dusk, and this rare evening light provided some spectacular new insights into the rocket’s launch and reentry.

This post-sunset lighting can be seen in the introductory image above, which shows reddish hues reflecting off the white cores and upper stage. That color comes from the rocket gaining enough altitude to be in line of sight with the sun.

Now the second most powerful rocket in the world after NASA’s Space Launch System, the Falcon Heavy always puts on a great show, with its 27 Merlin engines firing in unison. It holds the record for the rocket with the most first stage engines to reach orbit — at least, until SpaceX’s Starship rocket takes flight later this year.

The rocket launched at 5:56 p.m. ET (22:56 UTC) on Sunday.
Enlarge / The rocket launched at 5:56 p.m. ET (22:56 UTC) on Sunday.

Trevor Mahlman

Sunday’s launch was named USSF-67 and delivered two payloads into geostationary orbit for the US Space Force. This was the second Falcon Heavy launch for the Space Force, with another scheduled for later this spring.

This engine shot shows the rocket’s three separate cores, each a modified version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with its own individual plume.

Twenty-seven Merlin engines power the first stage of the Falcon Heavy rocket.
Enlarge / Twenty-seven Merlin engines power the first stage of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

Trevor Mahlman

The rocket can be seen here climbing into the air before the booster separates, which happens about 2 minutes and 30 seconds after launch. After this point, the side-mounted boosters will detach from the missile’s central core.

Falcon Heavy sits high above the Florida coast.
Enlarge / Falcon Heavy sits high above the Florida coast.

Trevor Mahlman

The center core then burns for a further 30 seconds before consuming the kerosene and liquid oxygen as propellant. Meanwhile, the side-mounted boosters must halt their forward motion and reorient themselves for a return to landing zones a few miles from the launch site.



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