The sixth and final satellite in the U.S. military’s network of ultra-secure, nuclear-hardened AEHF communications relay stations has arrived in Florida for final preparations for liftoff in March on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the first of nearly 20 U.S. Space Force missions planned for launch in the first year of operations for the new military service.
With construction already underway at Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A on facilities for SpaceX’s next-generation Starship vehicle, another new fixture could soon rise at the seaside launch complex to satisfy U.S. military requirements to vertically integrate sensitive top secret spy satellites with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.
The predawn launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center of a Falcon Heavy rocket June 25 was the first nighttime liftoff of SpaceX’s heavy-lifter, the most powerful launcher currently operational anywhere in the world. The Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters returned to Cape Canaveral less than nine minutes later.
SpaceX’s third Falcon Heavy rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Center in a predawn launch Tuesday, delivering two dozen research and weather observation spacecraft into orbit on a marathon three-and-a-half mission for the U.S. Air Force. The mission included the successful landing of the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters back at Cape Canaveral, and a SpaceX recovery boat netted part of the rocket’s payload fairing for the first time.
This video replay shows the liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with 5.1 million pounds of thrust, followed by the nearby landing of the launcher’s twin side boosters nine minutes later. The rocket’s center core missed a landing attempt on SpaceX’s offshore drone ship.