SpaceX has today fired up its mighty Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful currently in operation, for the first time since 2019 to successfully lift a set of satellites into orbit for the US Space Force. The company also landed two of the rocket’s side boosters on a drone ship in the ocean, which will be polished up for use on another mission later this year.
The Falcon Heavy returned from its three-year-hiatus to perform its first flight since June 2019, in which it also carried satellites into orbit for the US government. The massive rocket is made up of 27 engines and three cores bound together to generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust, but has been parked while the industrious Falcon 9 continues carrying out the bulk of SpaceX’s launch obligations.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy booster during a static test fire
Today’s USSF-44 mission for the US Space Force was the Falcon Heavy’s fourth flight overall, lifting off from Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 9:41am local time. As in previous missions, the two side boosters separated from the center core, which was then tasked with carrying the payloads upward to deliver them to geostationary orbit.
SpaceX’s plans around the Falcon Heavy generally involve landing all three boosters for reuse, but the fuel demands for today’s secretive mission meant recovering the center core was never on the agenda. The company did manage to safely land the two side boosters, however, which it says marks the 150th and 151st recovery of an orbital class rocket.
The Falcon Heavy side boosters safely land on SpaceX’s drone ship in the ocean
These two side boosters will now be refurbished and readied for use on another US Space Force mission, which is slated for later in the year.
A replay of the USSF-44 mission can be viewed below.