SpaceX launches the Falcon Heavy rocket on a Space Force mission

SpaceX launches the Falcon Heavy rocket on a Space Force mission

Elon Musk On Tuesday, SpaceX launched the first Falcon Heavy mission in more than three years, the most powerful rocket currently in operation.

SpaceX’s rocket is carrying the classified USSF-44 mission for the US Space Force, which is also the first operational national security mission for the Falcon Heavy. Its last previous launch was the Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission in June 2019, which carried experimental satellites on a demonstration flight for the Pentagon.

The mission lifted off at 9:41 a.m. ET from the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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While Falcon Heavy’s base is reusable, the company only landed a side pair of three rocket boosters — with the center core being lowered into the ocean like traditional rockets do — to meet the Space Force’s high-performance requirements for the mission.

The Falcon Heavy rocket for the USSF-44 mission will reach the launch pad on October 31, 2022.


The pause in Falcon Heavy launches — the company completed three of the rocket’s February 2018 debuts — is largely due to customer readiness on its schedule.

This USSF-44 mission was originally scheduled for late 2020, and two other Falcon Heavy missions planned for this year, one for the Space Force and one for NASA, have payloads that are also not yet ready. There is a backlog of a dozen missions for the Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX continues to launch its Falcon series of rockets at high speed, and Tuesday’s mission marks the company’s record 50th launch this year. But the company is also continuing work on the even larger Starship rockets it hopes will replace them.

Why Starship is essential to SpaceX's future

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