USSF-44 | Falcon Heavy | Everyday Astronaut

Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)
November 01, 2022 – 13:40 UTC | 09:40 EDT
Mission Name
USSF-44
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
SpaceX
Customer
(Who’s paying for this?)
United States Space Force (USSF)
Rocket
Falcon Heavy, B1064-1, B1065-1, B1066-1
Launch Location
Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA
Payload mass
Unknown
Where are the satellites going?
GEO, the exact longitude is unknown
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
Yes (side boosters) and no (center core)
Where will the first stage land?
The two side boosters will land at Landing Zone 1 and Landing Zone 2
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
The fairing halves will be recovered from the water by recovery ship Doug.
Are these fairings new?
Yes
How’s the weather looking?
The weahter is currently 90% go for launch. (as of October 29, 2022 – 13:00 UTC)
This will be the:
– 4th Falcon Heavy launch
– 1st flight for B1064, B1065, B1066
– 150th and 151st booster landing if successful
– 76th and 77th consecutive landing (a record)
– 50th launch for SpaceX in 2022 (a record)
56th SpaceX launch from
LC-39A
– 149th orbital launch attempt of 2022
Where to watch
An official livestream will be listed here once available

Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, will be streaming at T-60 minutes; come ask questions and join the conversation live!

What Does All This Mean?

USSF-44 is a classified mission for the United States Space Force lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. USSF-44 will be inserted directly into a GEO by SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which will fly for the fourth time in total and the first time this year.

USSF-44 Mission

While the exact payload manifest for this launch is unclear, USSF-44 contains six payloads that will be directly inserted into a geostationary orbit (GEO). The main payload, USSF-44, is most likely a military communications satellite, which is classified with no information on it available. It is unclear though at what longitude it will be inserted. The other payloads are CubeSats and small satellites that hitch a ride to GEO and will be by Northrop Grumman’s Long Duration Propulsive ESPA, or short LDPE.

  • USSF-44
  • LINUSS-A 1 and LINUSS-A 2
  • USUVL (not confirmed)
  • TETRA-1
  • WL2XOU (not confirmed)

Long Duration Propulsive ESPA

The LDPE (Long Duration Propulsive ESPA; ESPA = EELV Secondary Payload Adapter; EELV = Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) is serving as the ride share payload on the USSF-44 mission. The ESPA is simply a payload adapter used to help attach the LDPE to the main satellite in addition to hosting a few slots for other smallsats. However, the entire system is powered by the ESPAStar satellite bus, which is in charge of power consumption and distribution as well as propulsion. ESPAStar has the capability to host 6 smallsat payloads totaling 1,920 kg (4,230 lb). The system is also able to provide 400 meters per second of delta-V via a Hydrazine propulsion module.

Render of an ESPAStar satellite bus. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

LINUSS-A 1 & LINUSS-A 2

LINUSS stands for Lockheed Martin’s In-space Upgrade Satellite System and LINUSS-A 1 & LINUSS-A 2 are a pair of LM50TM 12 U CubeSats. With two deployable solar arrays, LINUSS-A 1 and A 2 are designed to operate in geostationary, geosynchronous or similar orbits to test, advance, and validate technologies that are not ready to be placed on bigger geostationary payloads.

Both LINUSS CubeSats are also testbeds for Lockheed Martin’s LM 2100TM satellite bus platforms, aiming to validate various systems:

  • essential maneuvering capabilities
  • on-board high performance processing by Innoflight
  • low-toxicity propulsion by VACCO
  • IMUs, machine vision, 3D printed components, and SmartSatTM technologies by Lockheed Martin
LINUSS-A 1, LINUSS-A 2, USSF-44, CubeSat
Artist’s render of both LINUSS 12U CubeSats. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

USUVL & WL2XOU

There’s practically no information on either USUVL and WL2XOU. Both satellites are believed to be CubeSats or small test satellites for use in geostationary and/or in a 2.8° inclined super synchronous orbit to minimize potential interference with other GEO spacecrafts.

TETRA-1

TETRA-1 is another test satellite for in and around GEO. The microsatellite was built by Millenium Space Systems (a Boeing company) for the United States Space Force, and is the first of four TETRA satellites built by three different companies. TETRA-1 will test on-orbit maneuverability, as well as offer a training scenario for both new and experienced satellite operators.

TETRA-1, USSF-44, USSF, microsatellite
TETRA-1 during integration. (Credit: Millennium Space Systems)

What Is Falcon Heavy?

The Falcon Heavy is SpaceX’s partially reusable two-stage heavy-lift launch vehicle. The vehicle consists of two reusable side boosters, a reusable center core, an expendable second stage, and a pair of reusable fairing halves.

First Stage

The Falcon Heavy first stage contains 27 Merlin 1D+ sea level engines. Each booster contains nine engines. Each engine uses an open gas generator cycle and runs on RP-1 and liquid oxygen (LOx). Each engine produces 845 kN of thrust at sea level, with a specific impulse (ISP) of 285 seconds, and 934 kN in a vacuum with an ISP of 313 seconds. Compared to a normal Falcon 9 Block 5, Falcon Heavy’s first stage consists of two side boosters and a center core, with the side boosters basically being Falcon 9 boosters with a nose cone on top instead of an interstage. The center core on the other hand is a more modified booster equipped with a booster separation system and modified to handle the increased loads of three boosters.

The Merlin engines are ignited by triethylaluminum and triethylborane (TEA-TEB), which instantaneously burst into flames when mixed in the presence of oxygen. During static fire and launch the TEA-TEB is provided by the ground service equipment. However, as the Falcon Heavy first stage is able to propulsively land, three of the Merlin engines (E1, E5, and E9) contain TEA-TEB canisters to relight for the boost back, reentry, and landing burns.

Second Stage

The Falcon Heavy second stage is the same as a Falcon 9 one. It contains a singular MVacD engine that produces 992 kN of thrust and an ISP of 348 seconds. The second stage is capable of doing several burns, allowing the Falcon Heavy to put payloads in several different orbits.

On these missions, the second stage is equipped with the MEK (mission extension kit) that allows it to support missions with many burns and/or long coasts between burns. This package has a gray strip, which helps keep the RP-1 warm, an increased number of composite-overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) for pressurization control, and additional TEA-TEB for multiple re-lights of the MVacD engine.

CRS-18, MEK, mission extension kit, falcon 9
SpaceX’s CRS-18 during lift off. The second stage is equipped with the MEK noticeable by the gray stripe on the lower half of the second stage. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon Heavy Boosters

The boosters supporting the USSF-44 mission are B1064, B1065, and B1066, which have not supported any other missions yet. Hence, its designation for this mission is B1064-1, B1065-1, and B1066-1; This will change to 1064-2, and 1065-2 upon successful landing. The center core, B1066-1, will not be recovered.

B1064’s missions Launch Date (UTC) Turnaround Time (Days)
USSF-44 October 31, 2022 – 14:44 N/A
B1065’s missions Launch Date (UTC) Turnaround Time (Days)
USSF-44 October 31, 2022 – 14:44 N/A

Following booster separation, the Falcon Heavy boosters will conduct three burns. These burns aim to softly touch down the boosters on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 and Landing Zone 2.

Falcon Heavy side booster landing, Falcon Heavy Demo Flight, landing zone 1, landing zone 2
Falcon Heavy side booster landing at landing zone one and two during its inaugural launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon Heavy Fairings

The Falcon Heavy’s fairing consists of two dissimilar reusable halves. The first half (the half that faces away from the transport erector) is called the active half, and houses the pneumatics for the separation system. The other fairing half is called the passive half. As the name implies, this half plays a purely passive role in the fairing separation process, as it relies on the pneumatics from the active half.

Both fairing halves are equipped with cold gas thrusters and a parafoil which are used to softly touch down the fairing half in the ocean. SpaceX used to attempt to catch the fairing halves, however, at the end of 2020 this program was canceled due to safety risks and a low success rate. On Starlink Group 4-31, SpaceX will attempt to recover the fairing halves from the water with their recovery vessel Doug.

In 2021, SpaceX started flying a new version of the Falcon fairing. The new “upgraded” version has vents only at the top of each fairing half, by the gap between the halves, whereas the old version had vents placed spread equidistantly around the base of the fairing. Moving the vents decreases the chance of water getting into the fairing, making the chance of a successful scoop significantly higher.

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