USSF-67 was Falcon Heavy’s second national security space launch
WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Falcon Heavy lifted off Jan. 15 at 5:56 p.m. Eastern Time from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, carrying the U.S. Space Force mission USSF-67 into geostationary Earth orbit.
USSF-67 was the Space Force’s first national security mission of 2023 and marked Falcon Heavy’s fifth flight since its 2018 debut, as well as its second national security space launch after Nov. 1. USSF-44 launch.
The Falcon Heavy’s first stage is made up of three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together, with 27 engines powering the first stage and one engine in the second stage.
About two and a half minutes after liftoff, the two side boosters separated. The second leg separated from the main leg just over four minutes after liftoff.
The two side boosters landed at SpaceX Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, about eight and a half minutes after liftoff. These landings marked SpaceX’s 163rd and 164th successful booster recoveries. They will be refurbished for future national security space missions.
The expendable core was jettisoned in the Atlantic Ocean and not recovered as mission performance requirements did not allow enough fuel to return the stage to Earth.
SpaceX ended the live webcast after the booster landings and did not show views of the second stage or payload at the request of the US government. SpaceX received a $316 million contract in August 2020 to launch USSF-67.
The primary payload was the U.S. Space Force Continuous Broadcast Augmentation Communications Satellite SATCOM (CBAS)-2, used to relay data from existing satellites. The second spacecraft was the Long-lasting propulsive ESPAor LDPE-3A, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, a bus carrying five small military payloads
Two of the five are small US Space Systems Command satellites. One, called Catcher, is a prototype spatial domain awareness sensor. The other, named WASSAT, is a prototype long-range sensor for tracking other spacecraft and debris objects in geosynchronous orbit.
The other three smallsat payloads were developed by the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, a Space Force organization that primarily does classified projects. RCO Space Spokesperson Matt Fetrow said two of the payloads are operational prototypes for space situational awareness missions and the third is a data encryption payload to secure space-to-ground data transmissions.
“Space RCO has begun working with SSC to identify launch opportunities for these payloads in 2019,” Fetrow said. The LDPE bus was “a great solution”, he said. “IIt’s really hard to find a great car like this.