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Technical issues delay Falcon Heavy Launch of secret Space Force orbital platform
The business end of a Falcon 9 Heavy.
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Technical issues delay Falcon Heavy Launch of secret Space Force orbital platform
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Dec 11, 2023

SpaceX has announced further revisions to the schedule for the Falcon Heavy's launch of the USSF-52 mission. The launch, initially set for December 10 and then rescheduled for December 11, is now targeted for no earlier than Tuesday, December 12 at 8:14 p.m. ET. This latest delay stems from a 'ground side issue', marking a deviation from the earlier weather-related postponement. SpaceX has also prepared a backup launch opportunity for Wednesday, December 13, should it be necessary. In addition, a Falcon 9 launch set to occur three hours after the Falcon Heavy launch, for the Starlink 6-34 mission, has also been delayed.

The launch will take place from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As usual, SpaceX plans to broadcast the event live, beginning approximately 15 minutes before liftoff. This can be viewed on SpaceX's official channel.

This mission is a significant one for SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, as it will be the fifth flight for these specific side boosters. These boosters have a history of success, having previously been used in the USSF-44, USSF-67, Hughes JUPTER 3, and NASA's Psyche mission. Following their separation from the main craft, these side boosters are slated to return to Earth, targeting a controlled landing at SpaceX's Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The USSF-52 mission, a collaboration between Space Systems Command (SSC) and SpaceX - which is tasked with deploying the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle on its seventh mission. This experimental program showcases the potential of a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Space Force. Brig. Gen. Kristin Panzenhagen, Program Executive Officer for Assured Access to Space and Commander of Space Launch Delta 45, previously noted the readiness of the team for this National Security Space launch, highlighting the importance of enhancing launch capabilities for national security and ensuring uninterrupted access to orbit.

2023 has been a landmark year for SSC and SpaceX's partnership. Earlier in the year, they successfully launched the NSSL Falcon Heavy for the USSF-67 mission, followed closely by a Falcon 9 rocket launch carrying a GPS satellite into orbit from the Eastern Range. These back-to-back launches demonstrate the enhanced agility and resilience of all teams involved in executing crucial space missions as SpaceX continues to increase launch frequency benefiting all customers.

The collaboration between the Assured Access to Space team and SpaceX is crucial as the U.S. Space Force prepares for an intensive launch schedule, including the deployment of numerous proliferated constellations. This partnership is vital for maintaining a robust space presence.

Space Systems Command plays a key role in the U.S. Space Force, responsible for acquiring and delivering resilient space capabilities and cutting-edge technologies. With a significant $15 billion space acquisition budget from the Department of Defense, SSC collaborates extensively with joint forces, industry partners, government agencies, academic institutions, and allied organizations to foster innovation and stay ahead of potential space-based threats.

Launch coverage here

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