SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is the most powerful launcher on the market today. Capable of lifting over 60 tons to low-Earth orbit, it first debuted in February 2018 launching Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster into space, on a truly historic test flight.
Since then, the vehicle has only had two flights: Arabsat-6A in April 2019, and STP-2 in June 2019.
However, this hiatus is drawing to a close and Falcon Heavy is preparing to make a return, and in a glorious fashion.
First and foremost, 2021 has been a year many space enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting regarding FH. Not only will this end the hiatus with a launch, but rather two launches in this year alone.
The upcoming mission is USSF-44. Currently, this mission is set for no earlier than May 2021 and will mark 23 months since STP-2.
USSF-44 is a mission for the U.S. Space Force, carrying a classified payload to a Geostationary Orbit (GSO). Notably, the payload will be inserted directly into a GSO as opposed to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), because the impressive capability of Falcon Heavy can do so.
The mission will utilize a brand new core and boosters, significantly being the first dual-droneship landing using ‘Just Read The Instructions’ and ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ for side-booster recovery (B1064 and B1065). The center core (B1066) will be expended, in order to provide more energy to get the payload into a direct GSO.
And then two months later, we will see USSF-52, set for no earlier than July 2021.
Much like the previous mission, this is another classified payload for the U.S. Space Force. Details of the orbit and recovery operations are not yet known and this will likely come nearer the time, typical of governmental payloads.
ViaSat-3 is then the next mission, set for no earlier than January 2022.
This is a commercial payload for Viasat, an American communications company, whereby ViaSat-3 will boost its constellation of satellites in orbit.
2022 will feature three launches of FH in total, Psyche and USSF-67 in addition to ViaSat-3.
Not only has Falcon Heavy returned from its slumber to launch multiple missions in the foreseeable, it has also been chosen for a pivotal and historic mission.
On February 9 2021, NASA selected SpaceX and its Falcon Heavy to launch the first segments of the Lunar Gateway; more specifically, the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO).
This will mark the beginning of NASA’s Artemis Program Lunar Gateway, an orbiting outpost similar in function to the International Space Station but will allow for frequent and long-duration missions to the Moon.
This mission is set for no earlier than May 2024, and will launch on a Falcon Heavy using an extended fairing, from the historic Launch Complex 39A in Cape Canaveral.
It is fair to say that Falcon Heavy has got a busy future ahead, and although it’s disappearance for what will be nearly two years, has been disappointing, it’s return couldn’t be more glorious with 2021, 2022 and 2024 launches scheduled.
And as for 2024, being chosen to launch the first segments of a hugely historic lunar outpost will be one special flight for the vehicle.
Go Falcon Heavy!