SpaceX has launched a classified mission for the US Space Force
SpaceX has successfully launched its Falcon Heavy launch vehicle as part of the USSF-67 mission for the US Space Force.
As reported by Space.com, the launch vehicle launched a military communication satellite and five smaller devices into orbit.
The Falcon Heavy’s boosters are designed to be reused, just like the Falcon 9. As part of the current launch, SpaceX managed to return two boosters of its super-heavy launch vehicle to Earth, landing eight minutes after launch. It was already the second launch for both.
“Liftoff of USSF-67. Go Falcon Heavy! Go Space Force!” a mission team member said over SpaceX’s communications line during the launch, which the company webcast live.
The Falcon Heavy consists of three modified first stages of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. These three are strapped together, the central one sporting a payload-carrying upper stage.
The Falcon Heavy’s first stages are designed to be reusable, just like the Falcon 9’s, and two of them successfully returned to Earth on Sunday. The side boosters of the launch vehicle USSF-67 landed safely at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport 8 minutes after launch. It was the second landing for each of them; both participated in USSF-44, the Falcon Heavy mission for the Space Force, which launched on November 1, 2022.
The central booster on USSF-67 was a new vehicle, and it will not get a chance to fly again. It ditched into the Atlantic Ocean as planned not long after liftoff on Sunday, having used too much of its fuel to come back home again.
The Falcon Heavy’s upper stage, meanwhile, continued carrying its payloads to orbit. But we didn’t get to see much of that journey; SpaceX ended the launch webcast just after booster touchdown, at the request of the Space Force. It’s unclear when the payloads are scheduled to be deployed.
The primary satellite on USSF-67 is Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM 2 (CBAS-2), which is headed to geostationary orbit, about 22,200 miles (35,700 kilometers) above Earth.
CBAS-2 will “provide communications relay capabilities in support of our senior leaders and combatant commanders,” Space Force officials said in an emailed statement on Friday (Jan. 13). “The mission of CBAS-2 is to augment existing military satellite communication capabilities and continuously broadcast military data through space-based satellite relay links.”