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SpaceX launches two military satellites with Falcon Heavy

Fifth Falcon Heavy flight launched the USSF-67 into geostationary orbit

Falcon Heavy n ° 5 ( B1070 and B1064 / B1065 ) took off from platform 39A

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket №5 was launched from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday, January 15, 2023, at 5:56 pm, EST (22h56 UTC). Approximately eight minutes after takeoff, side thrusters B1064 and B1065, which were used for the second time, made a controlled vertical landing on the LZ-1 and LZ-2 platforms at the launch site ( o ‘ core ’ central B1070 was disintegrated in the ocean after the propulsion phase, since it was disposable . As part of the mission, a military communications satellite CBAS-2 ( Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM 2 ) will be placed in geostationary orbit.

The two side boosters fired for two and a half minutes before falling and flying back to synchronized side-by-side landings at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Announced as usual by sonic crashes, the thrusters flew for the first time on a Falcon Heavy last November and both will be used again on an upcoming mission.

The center ‘ core ’ B1070 worked for another minute and a half before also falling, leaving the rest of the climb to the second stage . Unlike the side propellants, the plant used all of its propellant as planned to complete the rise of the lower atmosphere and its recovery was not possible.

The ‘ bosters ’ B1064.2 and B1065.2 nearby inns, in zones 1 and 2

The Falcon Heavy headed east of the Kennedy Space Center to begin the approximately six-hour ascent to geosynchronous orbit, where the rocket would release its tandem charges, one at a time, more than 36,000 kilometers over the equator, after entering an initial orbit of 300 km x 35,800 km. Stage 2 will rise through Van Allen radiation belts to reach the target orbital injection altitude of the mission where it will complete its third and last engine trip before the load is separated useful. The upper stage motor will complete the task of maneuvering in geosynchronous orbit. The stage is expected to start its engine three times, with a stop of approximately six hours between the second and third ignition. As usual in military launches, the details were not disclosed.

Exclusion zones for falling boosters and ‘ core ’

The satellites

According to official data from the United States Space Systems Command, CBAS-2 ( Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM – Continuous Transmission Increase communications satellite, manufactured by Boeing ) will expand satellite communications capabilities among the country's main leaders and combat commands. Specific data about the spacecraft and its orbit are strictly classified. Meanwhile, according to American experts, its mass reaches three tons. The satellite must be placed in orbit with geostationary at 35,000 km. This is the second of its kind for the US Space Force. The first is the CBAS-1, launched in orbit in April 2018 using the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V launch vehicle. The CBAS satellite has a takeoff mass of around 2,000 to 3,000 kg.

As a secondary cargo, the rocket also put an LDPE-3A vehicle into orbit, designed to carry out experiments in space in the interest of the Pentagon. It is a platform for six minisatellites whose missions have not been described in detail, in addition to including operational prototypes for “ improved situational awareness ” and encryption technology for space-to-ground communications. Two other charges are presumably going to test space climate sensors and possibly test equipment to monitor other satellites. This mission includes two SSC-type loads: the Catcher and WASSAT, and three loads developed by the Space Rapid Capabilities Office ( SRCO ).SRCO charges include two operational prototypes for greater situational awareness and an operational prototype encryption / encryption interface that offers secure space-to-ground communication capabilities.

The Catcher, built by Aerospace Corporation, is a sensor prototype to provide insights into local space domain awareness, Aerospace Corporation said. It is based on a previous instrument developed by Aerospace Corporation called Energetic Charged Particle-Lite, or ECP-Lite, to demonstrate a new miniaturized technology that can diagnose adverse radiation effects, charged particles and other spatial climatic events in orbiting spacecraft.

According to Sandia National Laboratories, its WASSAT is a wide-area sensor prototype made up of four cameras to search for and track other spacecraft and space debris in geosynchronous orbit, where communication satellites, missile detection, information collection and climate monitoring operate.

The LDPE ( Long Duration Propulsive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter ) of about 1,875 kg, is “ a freight train into space for experiments and prototypes in geosynchronous orbit that can be manifested in any national security mission with available mass margin ”, said Colonel Joseph Roth, director of innovation and prototyping for the Space Systems Command. The LDPE-3A was built on a ESPAStar chassis, which is similar to a ESPA ring, but with additional propulsion, electricity and avionics so that it can operate as an independent satellite. LDPE offers an accessible path to space for hosted and separable payloads. “ The modular design and standard LDPE interfaces make it a perfect platform for hosting a wide variety of loads in many mission areas. ”

Military launches

This flight 5 from Falcon Heavy is the first of the NSSL program this year and the first launch of SpaceX from the NSSL Phase 2 contract . Phase 2 contracts use prices similar to commercial ones, significantly saving taxpayers' money while “ provides industry-based stability, contributing to more efficient purchasing practices, as well as manifest flexibility that benefits both the government and commercial customers ”.

An innovation developed by SpaceX and adopted by the US Space Force is the reuse of boosters. The side propellants of the USSF-67 were the same as those used for the USSF-44, launched on November 1, 2022. The efficiency achieved with reuse “ benefits customers by adding flexibility to a dynamic launch list and cost savings. ”, according to the US Department of Defense.

Mission statistics:

  • 5th launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket

  • 206th of the Falcon rocket family since 2006

  • 60 SpaceX launch of platform 39A

  • 154th overall launch of the 39A platform

  • 3rd launch of SpaceX 2023

  • 1st Falcon Heavy launch in 2023

  • 3rd attempt to launch Cape Canaveral in general in 2022

  • 2nd Falcon Heavy national security launch mission

  • 2nd flight for side propellants B1064 and B1065

  • 1st flight to central stage B1070

The ignition risk area of ‘ boostback ’ ( the phase in which the ‘ booster ’ slows down and returns to Florida ) was limited to about 650 km downstream, and the fall area of the ‘ core ’ and the head fairing shells are about 1,500 km from the coast. The support boat ‘Bob‘ would rescue the hood in the water ( the forecast was for waves of 3.6 meters ).

Space Systems Command

Space Systems Command is the field command of the US Space Force responsible for acquiring and offering resilient warfare capabilities to protect our nation's strategic advantage within and out of space. The SSC manages a space acquisition budget of US $ 11 billion for the Department of Defense and works in partnership with joint forces, industry, government agencies, academic and allied organizations to accelerate innovation and overcome what the American military calls emerging threats.

Falcon Heavy

SpaceX debuted the Falcon Heavy rocket on a test flight on February 6, 2018, which sent Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster to interplanetary space. Two missions flew on April 11, 2019 and June 25, 2019 and put a commercial communications satellite Arabsat and 24 military and NASA spacecraft into orbit, respectively. The next launch did not take off until three and a half years later, after delays in the designated spacecraft. The USSF-44 mission on November 1 was SpaceX's first launch to extend payloads directly into geosynchronous orbit. The profile of the six-hour mission required that some changes be made to the rocket,including the addition of gray paint on the outside of the upper stage kerosene tank to help ensure that fuel does not freeze while the rocket decelerates in the cold space environment. The same gray ink strip is in the upper stage of this Falcon Heavy for the USSF-67 mission. SpaceX and the Space Force agreed to reform and reuse the side propellants of the USSF-44 and USSF-67 missions for the next launch of Falcon Heavy for the military. This launch, called USSF-52, it is scheduled to take off not before April.

Rocket modifications for extended missions

The second stage of the Falcon Heavy will have a gray band as part of the so-called MEK ( Mission Extension Kit, mission extension kit ) to allow more heat from sunlight to be absorbed to heat the RP-1 kerosene tank during the long period of inertia to heat the fuel contained in that part of the rocket. When it gets very cold, kerosene – freezes at a much higher temperature than liquid oxygen, and becomes viscous. If ingested, too dense fuel would likely prevent ignition or destroy the engine. The package also has a greater number of pressure vessels coated with composite ( COPVs ) for pressurization control and additional extra TEA-TEB ampoules for various Merlin Vac D engine reignitions second stage.Falcon Heavy is expected to place satellites in geosynchronous orbit through various ignitions. The upper stage flight profile will include a coasting lasting more than five hours between ignitions, making the mission one of SpaceX's most demanding launches so far.

On one of the Falcon Heavy missions, the upper stage completed four ignitions over three and a half hours on an Air Force-sponsored demonstration flight. The complex orbital maneuvers during the June 2019 mission for the Space Test Program were necessary to place 24 satellites in three distinct orbits. They also exercised the capabilities of the rocket and its Merlin upper-stage engine before the military entrusted the launcher with more important and more expensive operational national security payloads on future flights.


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