Saturday , October 23 2021

SpaceX's next Falcon Heavy to bring the Air Force into a new era of reusable rockets


After a few adjustments to the timeline, SpaceX's third launch Falcon Heavy – with 24 spacecrafts in a variety of orbits – is ready to take the US Air Force into a new era of commercial litter by 11:30 p.m. (03:30 UTC), June 24.

Divided between the USAF, Department of Defense (DoD) research labs, NASA, NOAA and some US universities, the 24 STP-2 satellites will be launched aboard the second SpaceX Falcon Heavy Block 5 rocket. Both side reinforcements are proven in-flight, supporting the debut of the Falcon Heavy Block 5 launch on April 11, just 54 days ago. If all goes as planned, STP-2 will simultaneously provide the USAF with the data needed to fully certify Falcon Heavy in all military launches and to prepare the US military to certify commercially-proven flight rockets for future launch contracts.

Signaling how important a company feels about this mission, a dedicated STX-2 site created by SpaceX provides an excellent explanation of all aspects of the mission, from technical to strategic.

"The STP-2 mission will be among the most challenging releases in SpaceX's history, with four separate burns in the upper-stage engine, three separate deployment orbits, a final propulsive passivation maneuver, and a total mission duration of more than six hours . In addition, the US Air Force plans to reuse the lateral reinforcements from the launch of the Arabs 6A Falcon Heavy, recovered after a return to the launch site. [RTLS] landing, making it the first re-used heavy hawk ever flown to the US Air Force.

[STP-2] will demonstrate the capabilities of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle and provide critical data that supports certification for future National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions. In addition to that, in addition, [the Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center (SMC)] will use this mission as a tool for the development of mission assurance policies and procedures related to the reuse of launch vehicle drivers." –

Following the arrival of the Falcon Heavy core B1057 on June 1, all STP-2 launch hardware is now in SpaceX's Pad 39A launch complex and nearby cargo processing facilities. Although we have to wait for the official confirmation of the photos, SpaceX is probably in the final stages of integrating the three boosters and the upper stage of the Falcon Heavy, while a combination of DoD and SpaceX technicians are presumably in the midst of the preparation of all 24 satellites STP-2. launch.

The next visible landmark of Falcon Heavy Flight 3 is likely to be the launch of the rocket integrated into the Pad 39A for a routine static fire test, which can occur between 3 and 7 days before June 24.

The first version of the Block 5 of the Falcon Heavy is preparing for its debut in the launch.
Although the central core (B1055) has not been recovered intact, both lateral reinforcements (B1052 and B1053) have completed a flawless landing and will be reused in the STP-2. (SpaceX)

Reuse record

Unbelievably, despite the schedule overhead likely to be added by the crucial nature of this ship's mission, the current June 24 launch date would allow the B1052 and B1053 side reinforcers to simultaneously break SpaceX's current record of acceleration shifts. Set in mid-2018 by the B1045 in SpaceX's latest non-Block 5 release, the 72-day delivery deadline would be beaten by 68 days for STP-2, save for any additional delay.

USAF photographer James Rainier's remote camera captured this spectacular view of the Falcon Heavy Block 5's B1052 and B1053 side reinforcements returning to SpaceX Landing Zones 1 and 2. (USAF - James Rainier)
The Falcon B1052 and B1053 heavy side boosters landed in Landing Areas 1 and 2 (LZ-1 / LZ-2) after its debut at launch and Falcon Heavy's first commercial mission. Both will fly again as part of the STP-2 mission. (USAF – James Rainier)

Whether the lateral reinforcements of the STP-2 literally exceeded SpaceX's 72-day reuse record is irrelevant to the real meaning of this framework. If SpaceX can beat its old record as part of what may be its most complex launch of all time, it is safe to say that re-using Block 5 – particularly for personal use boosters – is already a spectacular success. It also suggests that SpaceX's launch engineers and engineers are becoming extremely familiar and comfortable with Falcon Heavy's launch operations, as two boosters used in two Falcon Heavy launches may break SpaceX's most significant reuse record.

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