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article imageSpaceX's Falcon Heavy launches 24 research satellites to space

By Karen Graham     Jun 25, 2019 in Technology
SpaceX marked another milestone early this morning as the company's Falcon Heavy megarocket successfully lofted two dozen research satellites into orbit.
The rocket blasted off from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida three hours into its launch window, taking to the night sky at 2:30 a.m. EDT on June 25 (0630 GMT).
This was the Falcon Heavy's first night launch and third launch, overall. The mission was part of the U.S. Air Force's Space Test Program (STP-2) and carried payloads for universities, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the nonprofit organization The Planetary Society.
With the successful launch of the Department of Defense research satellites, the Air Force is expected to provide data to certify the Falcon Heavy—and reused boosters—for future national security launches. This launch also marked the first time the military hitched a ride on a recycled rocket.
Both side boosters landed successfully back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, right next door to KSC, while the center core booster just missed its landing on the SpaceX drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of miles from the launch site, according to
The center core booster missing its landing on the drone ship was not that much of a surprise for SpaceX engineers because the mission required higher-than-normal speeds due to the payload. As it was, the drone ship was twice as far from shore as it would normally be in the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket.
In another milestone for the commercial space company, SpaceX caught half of the fairing or nose cone using the high-speed boat, Miss Tee. The boat is equipped with a huge "catchers mitt" net and was successful in snaring the fairing half in a net strung up above the boat’s deck, CEO Elon Musk confirmed in a tweet. The fairing is the bulbous nose cone on top of the rocket.
The fairing halves each have a set of guidance systems and parachutes, as they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at multiple times the speed of sound. In the December 2018 video, SpaceX showed what the fairing-catching boat looked like and explained its purpose.
As SpaceX explained last week, this launch was particularly difficult due to the satellites onboard needing to be injected into three distinct orbits. This meant the expulsion of the satellites had to be precisely timed. The maneuvers required that the rocket's second-stage booster fire four times, with the final deployment scheduled to occur about 3.5 hours after launch.
More about Spacex, falcon heavy, night launch, STP2, center core
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