A U.S. military data relay satellite and a rideshare platform with its own suite of payloads rocketed into a sunset sky over Florida’s Space Coast Sunday on a Falcon Heavy launcher, putting on a dazzling show for local residents and visitors as the rocket’s two side boosters returned to Cape Canaveral for landing.
SpaceX’s fifth Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:56 p.m. EST (2255 GMT) Sunday with a U.S. Space Force communications satellite and a rideshare spacecraft hosting five military payloads. The Falcon Heavy’s two reusable side boosters returned to Cape Canaveral for landings about eight minutes after launch. The launch was delayed from Saturday after preparations ran behind schedule.
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Space Force say converted launch vehicle payload adapter rings, upgraded with power and propulsion to create full-fledged satellites, are proving effective in more rapidly delivering military instruments and sensors to orbit. Another such mission is set to launch on SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy rocket.
The U.S. Space Force confirmed Tuesday that a Falcon Heavy launcher placed two main payloads and at least three smaller rideshare satellites directly into a high-altitude geosynchronous orbit after liftoff from Florida, an achievement that checks off one of the final unproven capabilities for SpaceX’s rocket family.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful operational launch vehicle, lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 9:41 a.m. EDT (1341 GMT) Tuesday on a mission to deliver two U.S. Space Force satellites and multiple rideshare payloads into geosynchronous orbit, a journey that will take about six hours for the rocket’s upper stage. The Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters successfully returned to Cape Canaveral for landing about eight minutes after liftoff.
The first Falcon Heavy rocket flight since 2019 is scheduled Tuesday to kick off SpaceX’s longest-duration launch mission to date, a roughly six-hour climb into geosynchronous orbit more than 20,000 miles over the equator with a bundle of payloads for the U.S. Space Force. The powerful rocket’s two reusable side boosters will return to Cape Canaveral for landing.