Falcon Heavy could launch three U.S. Space Force missions in 2022
WASHINGTON — Two U.S. Space Force missions on Falcon Heavy rockets that had been scheduled for 2021 have slipped into next year. There is now a third U.S. national security launch that will be added to the Falcon Heavy’s crowded 2022 manifest.
USSF-67, a classified national security mission to geostationary Earth orbit awarded to SpaceX last year under a $332 million contract, is “on track for mid-to-late 2022 launch,” a U.S. Space Systems Command spokesman confirmed Oct. 30. The mission will fly on a Falcon Heavy rocket with an expendable center core, although SpaceX will be able to recover the two side boosters.
The addition of a third national security mission for Falcon Heavy will make for quite a scheduling challenge for SpaceX’s three-core rocket that also is projected to launch in 2022 a Viasat-3 commercial broadband satellite with an Astranis communications satellite as a secondary payload, as well as NASA’s Psyche planetary science mission.
The Space Force missions USSF-44 and USSF-52 both were scheduled to fly in 2021 but have been delayed by payload readiness and range scheduling issues. No target launch dates have been announced yet although the Space Force said they would happen in 2022. Falcon Heavy rockets lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
USSF-44 would be Falcon Heavy’s first national security direct-inject mission to geostationary orbit and SpaceX’s first mission to attempt a double droneship landing. The only known payload to fly on USSF-44 is the TETRA-1 small satellite made by Millennium Space Systems.
The Space Force has not disclosed payloads for USSF-52 or USSF-67.
Whenever Falcon Heavy flies next will mark the vehicle’s first launch since June 2019 when the rocket carried two dozen small satellites on a demonstration mission for the U.S. Air Force called STP-2. Prior to STP-2, Falcon Heavy launched the Arabsat-6A communications satellite in April 2019 and Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster in February 2018.