SpaceX is about to face the next big Falcon Heavy challenge: a launch that reuses two cores from a previous mission, the first time the world's most powerful rocket will reuse boosters.
Department of Defense Space Test Program-2, ready for launch on June 22nd, will be the third ever Falcon Heavy flight. The rocket contains a powerful punch, with over five million pounds of take-off thrust, a figure never reached only by the Saturn V of NASA which flew for the last time in 1973. But while SpaceX saved the boosters a A key aspect of its mission to reduce the costs of space missions, this is only the first time that the rocket will reuse the repeaters.
The mission will take off at 11:30 pm. Oriental from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Launch Complex 39-A. This weekend, the brand new center in the center will arrive at the complex, ready to be joined to the reused side repeaters:
Re-using core is a key part of CEO Elon Musk's plan to reduce the costs of space travel, paving the way for his most ambitious projects such as establishing a colony on Mars. Where a Falcon 9 launch costs $ 62 million, about $ 46.5 million covers the booster itself. This makes saving the cores a very lucrative prize, but it also means that SpaceX must develop a system that can safely drive a rocket to Earth's safety after a high-pressure launch.
For the June Falcon Heavy launch, the company should re-use the side reinforcements from the Arabsat-6A mission in April. During this mission, the two side cores successfully landed on ground pads while the central booster landed on the Of course I still love you drone-ship in the Atlantic Ocean. These boosters differed from those used in the February 2018 test mission, debuting at more powerful "Block 5" variant.
The mission, which will be managed by the United States Air Force and the missile center, will send 24 satellites into space. The company has declared it "among the most challenging launches in the history of SpaceX", due to a combination of four advanced engine burns, three deployment orbits and a propulsive passivation maneuver to complete it all. The entire mission should last six hours.
The launch is expected to provide data for future missions to launch the national security space, while also demonstrating to the Missile Systems Center how the rocket behaves when boosters are reused.
The satellites on board have a broad spectrum. It includes the DSX, designed to collect data on low-Earth orbit radiation and the GPIM that could provide a more environmentally friendly alternative to the normal spacecraft propulsion systems.
Two of the satellites on board were actually built by students, one by the Georgia Institute of Technology which demonstrates satellite rendezvous technology and another by Michigan Technological University to work with unresolved optical images. SpaceX has already launched projects for students in space, such as that of Kevin Glunt who last month saw the creation of his team shot at the International Space Station.
These payloads are all rather more pedestrian than the first rocket challenge. When the Falcon Heavy debuted, he sent Musk's red Tesla Roadster, equipped with a "Starman" mannequin wearing a space suit in the driver's seat and a sound system that played David Bowie's "Space Oddity" in a loop. The car continued to travel around Mars and started to turn back towards Earth.
If SpaceX is able to prove that Falcon Heavy repeaters are reusable, it places it in a good position to develop its starship, the fully reusable ship designed to ferry humans to Mars, refuel and return home. This begins with the demonstration that these powerful missiles can be reused in the first place.
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