SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launches First U.S. National Security Mission

The US Space Force’s USSF-44 mission was launched this morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. This was Falcon Heavy’s first national security launch mission and the first launch in three years. USSF-44 consists of Tetra-1 satellite and the LDPE-2 ESPA class ring with multiple satellites attached. Tetra-1’s mission is to study cubesats in geostationary orbit.

I found this interesting, first to contrast with another launch that was supposed to happen also on November 1st, JPSS-2, out of Vandenberg. It was delayed as there was a need to replace a battery onboard the Centaur upper stage. They, of course, were completely different situations, but it’s difficult to not compare.

Also, I found the nature of Tetra-1 to be interesting in that it’s a cubesat going into geostationary orbit. I couldn’t find any precedent other than NASA’s GTOSat, which was set to launch originally in 2021. It is a 6U cubesat that was supposed to be launched into a geostationary transfer orbit to study the effects of the outer radiation belt. It was delayed until August 4th of this year, but was then delayed again as it was not compliant with orbital debris mitigation guidelines. Geostationary orbit is often used because of it’s longer dwell times over certain parts of the world. Having the orbit available for cubesats would greatly decrease the cost of future national security missions.

The last thing I found interesting was usually SpaceX broadcasts the whole separation portion of the launch. With the USSF-44 launch, they had to cut the broadcast early on the government’s request as to not show the payloads. I thought this showed good partnership between the government and commercial entities, which is being more and more emphasized to increase our capabilities faster. I think broadcasting these launches is important to keep public interest in space, and therefor, keep funding coming in. The government’s assets were still able to be protected while partnering with SpaceX.


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