SpaceX launches fifth Falcon Heavy with USSF-67

January 15, at 5:56 pm E.T. from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center

Tonight, Space Force launched their first national security mission of the year, marking the fifth ever flight of a Falcon Heavy rocket from SpaceX since the inaugural launch in 2018. What makes Falcon Heavy so special? well until Artemis I lifted off it was the most powerful rocket in operation, by a factor of two. It is also by far a fan favorite to space enthusiasts across the world. Comprised of three Falcon 9 boosters the heavy consists of two side boosters and a center core making up a total of twenty-seven Merlin 1D engines to push the vehicle from the pad. The center core booster carries the fairings and payload and continues further on as the twin side boosters are jettisoned back to Earth where they land to be reused on later missions. The center core booster detaches from the second stage later on and falls into the Atlantic Ocean.

The USSF-67 mission carried five total satellites into orbit. The primary payload that of the U.S. Space Force’s Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM or CBAS-2 satellite. It’s primarily used to relay date from existing satellites. There was also the LDPE-3A or Long Duration Propulsive ESPA, a spacecraft made by Northrop Grumman, and carries five small military payloads. Two of these are U.S. Space Command smallsats. One named Catcher, a prototype space domain awareness sensor. The other, called WASSAT, another prototype with a wide area sensor to track other spacecraft and debris in geosynchronous orbit.

The final three smallsats developed by the Space Rabid Capabilities Office, a Space Force organization that performs mostly classified projects. A RCO spokesperson stated that two of the payloads are operational prototypes for space situational awareness missions while the third is a date encryption payload to secure space to ground data transmissions.

The 207th overall launch for SpaceX came with more booster reusing. The side boosters on tonight’s mission, B1064, and B1065 each flew once before on the USSF-44 mission just seventy-five days ago. That mission, the first Falcon Heavy in over three years brought thousands to the space coast to watch, only to be fogged out from virtually every local viewing location around. The fairings splashed down an impressive 1500 km downrange in the Atlantic and were fished out of the drink by SpaceX recovery vessel Bob.