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SpaceX launched the largest rocket in its portfolio earlier today from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Falcon is the only heavy rocket in SpaceX’s portfolio, and after a three-year hiatus, the rocket made its third flight from the same facility late last year to launch another payload for the US Space Force. Using three Falcon 9s strapped together to generate five million pounds of thrust, the Falcon Heavy will soon be the only heavy lift rocket in the United States after the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy is retired in 2024. In addition, the Falcon Heavy is also a lift rocket. The only heavy available for launch, with two remaining Delta IV Heavy flights already booked.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy completes its fourth successful operational launch
When compared to a standard SpaceX launch, which uses the Falcon 9 to launch a variety of payloads to several unique orbits, the Falcon Heavy launch is always more impressive. The rocket is three times as powerful as the Falcon 9 because it uses 27 first-stage engines. These also provide great visuals not only when they launch but also when the first half of the mission is done, when the boosters separate and when they land back on the ground.
Unlike the previous Falcon Heavy launch in November, where the launch pad was shrouded in fog, this time, Kennedy Space Center provided clear views of the launch pad and the 230-foot rocket. This also made it possible to watch the 27 Merlin engines fire in flames as they blasted off in all their glory as the rocket lifted off the platform. Like the November launch, the reinforcements also landed on the ground; However, this time, their separation from the primary reinforcer is covered in more detail.
The Falcon Heavy packs two lateral boosters on the center core, which detaches from the core with the latter reused for flight. SpaceX did not reuse the Falcon Heavy Center for this mission either.
Approximately two and a half minutes after liftoff, the two side boosters separated from the main rocket as it traveled at approximately 5,800 kilometers per hour. Whereas the November launch of the Falcon Heavy only showed images of the detached rockets from the sides of the central booster, this time, SpaceX continued feeding from ground-based tracking cameras.
These images showed the two missiles pulling away from the main missile as their engines stopped to give the center stage the extra speed to move away safely. Approximately twenty seconds later, the Merlin’s engines for the side boosters fired again to prepare it for touchdown. The scenes showed that the missiles appeared to be hanging in the air.
Finally, approximately eight minutes after launch, the two side boosters plunged back to Earth—the landings were made for the 163rd and 164th successful landings of an orbital rocket. SpaceX also shared drone footage of the landing, which you can see below.
Drone shot of Falcon Heavy side boosters landing at LZ-1 and LZ-2 pic.twitter.com/JfYRWDIi1j
– SpaceX (SpaceX) January 16, 2023