SpaceX fires off Falcon Heavy rocket ahead of Saturday launch
SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket has flexed its muscles for a scheduled launch this weekend.
SpaceX just performed a “static fire” test with the falcon heavy on Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the 27 Merlin engines of the rocket’s first stage lit up while the vehicle remained anchored to the ground.
Static fires are common prelaunch tests for SpaceX, and the Falcon Heavy is indeed gearing up for a launch in the near future.
“Full static fire of Falcon Heavy completed; directed not until Saturday, January 14 for launch of USSF-67 mission from Florida,” SpaceX said Tuesday via Twitter (opens in new tab) (January 10), in a post that also included a photo of the static fire.
As that mission name suggests, Falcon Heavy USSF-67 will fly for the US Space Force. The country’s newest military branch was also the customer for the most recent Falcon Heavy flight, called USSF-44launched on November 1, 2022.
USSF-44 sent a handful of classified payloads to geostationary orbit (GEO), about 22,200 miles (35,700 kilometers) above Earth. USSF-67 will also target GEO and launch a military communications satellite and a spacecraft capable of carrying six small satellites to that relatively distant destination. according to SpaceNews (opens in new tab).
USSF-44 was the first Falcon Heavy mission since June 2019. That long gap was mainly due to delays in the readiness of customer loadsaerospace industry analysts said.
The Falcon Heavy consists of three tethered first stages of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket ship. The central booster is topped with an upper stage, which carries the charges.
Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stages are designed to be reusable. The two side boosters on USSF-67 will be reused from USSF-44, according to SpaceNews, and will attempt to land again for future reuse. USSF-67’s central core is new and will not attempt to land on Saturday, SpaceNews reported.
Saturday’s planned launch will continue to be a busy stretch for SpaceX. Elon Musk‘s company 40 internet satellites launched for London-based company OneWeb on Monday evening (Jan. 9) and plans to elevate 51 of its own Starlink broadband craft on Tuesday evening.
In addition, SpaceX’s robotic Dragon cargo pod left the International Space Station on Monday to go back to Earth. Dragon is expected to crash-land off the coast of Florida on Wednesday (Jan. 11), ending SpaceX’s CRS-26 resupply mission for NASA.
Mike Wall is the author of “Outside (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).
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