USSF-67 | Falcon Heavy

Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)
NET January 15, 2023 – 22:56 UTC | 17:56 EST
Mission Name
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
(Who’s paying for this?)
United States Space Force (USSF)
Falcon Heavy, B1064-2, B1070-1, B1065-2
Launch Location
Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA
Payload mass
Between 2,380 kg and 5,380 kg
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 TBD.
Are these fairings new?
How’s the weather looking?
Weather is currently >90% GO for launch (as of January 14, 2023 – 19:00 UTC)
This will be the:
– 5th Falcon Heavy launch
– 2nd flight for the side boosters B1064 and B1065
– 163rd and 164th booster landing if successful
– 89th and 90th consecutive landing (a record)

– 207th overall SpaceX mission
– 3rd launch for SpaceX in 2023
– 60th SpaceX launch from 
– 10th orbital launch attempt of 2023
Where to watch
Official livestream

Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, will be streaming at around T-30 minutes; come ask questions and join the conversation live!

What Does All This Mean?

USSF-67 is a classified mission for the United States Space Force lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The payloads of USSF-67 will be inserted directly into a GEO by SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which will fly for the fifth time in total and the first time this year.

USSF-67 Mission

While the exact payload manifest for this launch is unclear, USSF-67 contains five payloads hosted on the LDPE-3A satellite bus and the Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM 2 (CBAS-2), which will be directly inserted into a near geostationary orbit (GEO). The main payload, CBAS 2, is a military communications satellite. 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 either be deployed by Northrop Grumman’s Long Duration Propulsive ESPA, or short LDPE, or stay attached to it.

Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM (CBAS)

Weighing about 2,000 to 3,000 kg, the Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM 2, or short CBAS-2, is the second CBAS satellite to launch after the first one which took off back in April of 2018 on an Atlas V 551. CBAS 2 is a military communications and relay satellite designed to ensure communication between commanders and senior government leaders. Due to the classified nature of this mission and satellite, there is no available info on either the satellite, the manufacturer or further mission details.

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-67 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.

LDPE-3A, ESPAStar satellite bus, ESPAStar-D, USSF-67
Render of an ESPAStar satellite bus. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Five out of the six slots will be utilized on this mission, but it’s unclear if the payloads will stay attached to the LDPE-3A satellite bus, or if they will be deployed. Two payloads, Catcher and WASSAT, are Space Systems Command (SSC) payloads, while the other three were developed by the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (SRCO).

Catcher is a prototype sensor by The Aerospace Corporation based on the company’s Energetic Charged Particle-Light (ECP-Light) designed to monitor space weather hazards. Like the ECP-Light, Catcher will provide local space domain awareness insights. WASSAT most likely stands for Wide Area Search Satellite, which is a camera/sensor designed to monitor other satellites and gather data on their trajectories and anomalies like changes of their orbits. Out of the three SRCO payloads, two are operational prototypes for enhanced situational awareness, while the third and final one is an operational prototype crypto/interface encryption payload that will provide secure space-to-ground communications capability.

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, which use an open gas generator cycle and run 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 this 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 can have 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 grey stripe on the lower half of the second stage. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon Heavy Boosters

The boosters supporting the USSF-67 mission are B1064, B1065, and B1070, which, in case of the two side boosters, have supported one other missions yet. Hence, its designation for this mission is B1064-2, B1065-2, and B1070-1; this will change to 1064-3, and 1065-3 upon successful landing. The center core, B1070-1, will not be recovered.

B1064’s missionsLaunch Date (UTC)Turnaround Time (Days)
USSF-44October 31, 2022 – 14:44N/A
USSF-67January 12, 2023 – 22:4572
B1065’s missionsLaunch Date (UTC)Turnaround Time (Days)
USSF-44October 31, 2022 – 14:44N/A
USSF-67January 12, 2023 – 22:4572

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 USSF-44, 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.

All times are approximate

00:53:00SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
00:50:00RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
00:45:001st stage and side booster LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
00:35:002nd stage RP-1 loading underway
00:18:302nd stage LOX loading underway
00:07:00Falcon Heavy begins engine chill prior to launch
00:00:59Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
00:00:45SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
00:00:20Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure
00:00:06Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
00:00:00Falcon Heavy liftoff

All times are approximate

00:01:11Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:24Side boosters engine cutoff (BECO)
00:02:28Side boosters separate
00:02:45Side boosters boostback burns start
00:03:53Side boosters boostback burn ends
00:03:541st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:03:58Center core 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:04:042nd stage engine starts
00:04:18Fairing deployment
00:06:48Side boosters entry burn start
00:07:03Side boosters entry burn complete
00:08:00Side boosters landing burn start
00:08:11Side boosters landing
USSF-44, Falcon Heavy, launch graphics
USSF-44 launch graphics for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)
  1. It says this will be the “9th orbital launch attempt of 2022”, I believe it should be 2023

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