Intended to confirm its military use, the 3rd flight of the heaviest launcher of the world had to face many unprecedented issues. Each one was easily overcome.
On June 25th, a mission was entrusted to the Falcon Heavy that was very below its performances but much more complex than every mission ever performed by SpaceX’s launch vehicles: to set 24 satellites and cubists in three different orbits with very distinct inclinations.
The flight had to last six hours, have four ignitions of the upper stage and end with a final passivation maneuver.
The mission is intended to support science, meteorology, Earth observation and technology. The payloads were provided by several partners of the U.S. Air Force, which is the sponsor for this STP 2 (Space Test Program 2) mission. Those are research laboratories of the USA Defense Ministry, NASA, NOAA, universities and even The Planetary Society, co-founded in 1980 by the famous American astronome Carl Sagan.
First half payload fairing salvaged.
On this occasion, the Falcon Heavy was equipped with two lateral stages time-tested, used for the Arabsat 6A mission on last April 11th. The take off occurred at 2:30 am (Florida clock), from Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A, performing its first night flight.
The rocket’s twin side boosters landed almost at the same time on the nearby base of Cape Canaveral after a 8 minutes and 41 seconds flight. Less than 3 minutes later, the launcher’s center core landed into the sea, just a few meters away from the offshore drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, consequently suffering damages. As regards the boat Go Ms. Tree (formerly Mr. Steven), it finally succeeded to salvage a half fairing on its 5th attempt.
Most of all, by setting all the different payloads, the launch vehicle was approved for military use.