Falcon Heavy is back to get off to a good start in the new year. SpaceX has scheduled for January 12 its fourth launch of the year, the first of a Falcon Heavy, in 2023. The first mission was Transporter 6, which launched on January 3, and the other two, OneWeb #16 and Starlink Group 2-4 are planned for Jan.9 and Jan.10.
The USSF-67 mission for the United States Space Force (USSF) will lift-off from Launch Complex-39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The payload will consist of a top-secret satellite for the USSF and the LPDE-3A.
We’re proud to partner with @USSF_SSC once again for #USSF67. LDPE-3a, built utilizing our ESPAStar product line, launches from @NASAKennedy this month. 🛰 🚀— Northrop Grumman (@northropgrumman) January 4, 2023
Learn more about our freight train to space: https://t.co/pr7dJRkeUR pic.twitter.com/49V4MUDP4e
The Long Duration Propulsive ESPA (LDPE) is a payload adapter produced by Northrop Grumman in partnership with the United States Space Force. LDPE is designed using the ESPAStar platform, an evolution of the EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA). LDPE provides a cost-effective platform carrying several small satellites and payloads in addition to the main payload.
The first two missions that used this system have already been launched.
LDPE-1 flew on the STP-3 Mission aboard a ULA (United Launch Alliance) Atlas V rocket on Dec. 7, 2021.
LDPE-2 flew on the USSF-44 mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on Nov. 1, 2022.
The LDPE program has been renamed ROOSTER (Rapid On-Orbit Space Technology and Evaluation Ring).
The United State Space Force (USSF), founded in December 2019 under the Donald Trump presidency, is the 6th independent US military branch. Along with US Air Force, the Space Force is part of the Department of the Air Force.
The Space Force’s mission is to “organize, equip and train Guardians (military space professionals) to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force”. In particular, the main tasks are:
- Launch and operation of communications, navigation and observation satellites.
- Detection of missile launches, provision of weather information and secured communications to US troops worldwide.
- Development of new space technology.
- Monitoring of space debris.
The Falcon Heavy
Falcon Heavy is a rocket produced by SpaceX and composed of three Falcon 9 first stages mated together: two strap-on boosters and a center core. The Falcon Heavy has currently the second highest payload capacity of every rocket and is the second most powerful behind NASA’s Space Launch System. This is possible thanks to its 27 Merlin engines that generate more than 5 million pounds (22,200 kN) of thrust at liftoff.
SpaceX launched the first iconic Demo Mission of Falcon Heavy on February 6, 2018, carrying a Tesla Roadster which entered an elliptic orbit around the Sun. Inside the Roadster was placed a mannequin called Starman, to reveal the new SpaceX IVA spacesuit. Meanwhile the car’s sound system was playing David Bowie’s songs “Space Oddity” and “Life on Mars?”.
Due to its big payload capacity, and the Falcon 9 being improved along the years, the Falcon Heavy has been launched only 4 times, but SpaceX is currently planning five missions in 2023.
During the USSF-67 mission the strap-on boosters will land back at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) and Landing Zone 2 (LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station about 8 minutes after launch. The center core, instead, will be expended just like for USSF-44 mission last year. The targeted Orbit and altitude, the payload mass and the complexity of the mission don’t allow enough fuel reserve to return the center core back on land or offshore.