The next flight for SpaceX's massive Falcon Heavy rocket is expected to launch in June, a mission for the U.S. military that will carry more than two dozen satellites and spacecraft into orbit, according to Spaceflight Now.
Spaceflight Now reported Friday (March 2) that SpaceX's next Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the Space Test Program- 2 mission for the U.S. Air Force. The mission includes 25 different satellites and spacecraft, the most ever for a SpaceX rocket. Spaceflight Now cited an unnamed spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center as its source for the news.
SpaceX's second Falcon Heavy mission will come about four months after the Hawthorne-based company's successful Falcon Heavy test launch on Feb. 6. That mission launched SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster into space with Starman, a mannequin in a spacesuit, at the wheel.
According to Spaceflight Now, the STP-2 mission will include a veritable cornucopia of satellites. Those payloads include:
- Six small weather satellites for the U.S.-Taiwanese Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate-2 (COSMIC-2) program;
- LightSail 2, a solar-sail propelled cubesat built by the Planetary Society. This mission follows the society's first LightSail mission in 2015;
- The Air Force Research Laboratory's Demonstration and Science Experiments satellite (DSX) to study space radiation;
- NASA's Green Propellant Infusion Mission to test non-toxic fuels for spacecraft;
- The Orbital Test Bed satellite carrying NASA's Deep Space Atomic Clockalong with other military and commercial payloads;
- The Prox-1 satellite built by students at George Institute of Technology, and other small satellites built by the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, University of Texas at Austin, Michigan Institute of Technology, and the California Polytechnic Institute.
One cubesat riding on the Falcon Heavy was built by students at Merritt Island High School in Florida, Spaceflight Now reported.
For more details on the particulars of the second Falcon Heavy launch, check out Spaceflight Now's full report here.
SpaceX plans to launch a third Falcon Heavy mission in 2018. That rocket, slated to launch at the end of the year, will carry the Arabsat-6A communications satellite for communications provider Arabsat. In late February, spacecraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced that it had completed assembly of Arabsat-6A for the upcoming mission.
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Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.