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SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket completes secret mission for US Space Force.

Published: 2023-01-16

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, launched from the Kennedy Center in Florida on Jan. 15 as part of the USSF-67 mission for the US Space Force, completed a secret US military mission, placing one military communications satellite into orbit, as well as additional payloads. This is the fifth launch of the Falcon Heavy in the history of astronautics.

As you know, the Falcon Heavy consists of the first three stages, which are the usual "workhorses" of the Falcon 9, combined together. The second stage and the payload are attached to the central one. It is envisaged that the first stages of the Falcon Heavy are reusable, two of them safely landed on Earth on Sunday at Cape Canaveral 8 minutes after launch - they already participated in the USSF-44 military mission, completed on November 1, 2022. The central, new booster will not fly anywhere else - to complete the task, it has worked out all the fuel and is flooded in the Atlantic Ocean.

In the meantime, the upper stage put the cargo into orbit, but the broadcast was stopped at a certain stage by order of the military. The main cargo is the Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM 2 (CBAS-2) satellite, which is expected to be placed in a geostationary orbit 35,700 km above the Earth. CBAS-2 is a communications relay for the US military and will complement the existing grouping. In addition, a Long Duration Propulsive ESPA (LDPE)-3A payload adapter was launched into space, designed to deliver up to six small satellites. It is reported that five of the six cells this time were used by the US space forces, in particular, two Catcher and WASSAT satellites.

According to the EverydayAstronaut portal, Catcher is an experimental sensor designed to track "space weather", and WASSAT (Wide Area Search Satellite) is designed to track other satellites and their trajectories, for example, changing orbits. Two more satellites are supposedly working prototypes for "increasing situational awareness", another prototype is intended to provide cryptographic tasks.

The USSF-44 mission was flown by a Falcon Heavy in November for the first time in more than three years. The main reason for delays with new flights was problems with customers who failed to prepare cargo on time. Three more flights in addition to USSF-44 and USSF-67 were made in June 2019, April 2019 and February 2018.

The debut flight turned out to be memorable - the head and founder of Elon Musk sent a red Tesla Roadster into orbit around the Sun. According to scientific models, the machine will circle in deep space for millions of years before crashing into Venus or the Earth - if it is not found by puzzled descendants or representatives of extraterrestrial civilizations before that.

The Falcon Heavy, powered by 27 first-stage Merlin engines, was the most powerful active rocket before Orion launched to the Moon in November with the Space Launch System (SLS) as part of the Artemis 1 mission. Starship, which uses 33 Raptor engines, providing 16 million pounds-force (7257 tons-force) of thrust - more than any rocket ever built.