SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off at 2:30 a.m. EDT (0630 GMT) on June 25 with two dozen spacecraft on-board. Credit: SpaceX/U.S. Air ForceAfter two successful Falcon Heavy missions in less than 11 weeks, launch fans will likely have to wait until late 2020 for SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy flight, barring a surprise mission for…
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off at 2:30 a.m. EDT (0630 GMT) on June 25 with two dozen spacecraft on-board. Credit: SpaceX/U.S. Air Force

After two successful Falcon Heavy missions in lower than eleven weeks, originate fans will probably want to help except leisurely 2020 for SpaceX’s subsequent Falcon Heavy flight, barring a shock mission for an unannounced customer.

SpaceX has successfully launched Falcon Heavy missions so far — all successfully — and has firm originate contracts or contract alternatives for four more Falcon Heavy missions with the U.S. Air Force, Viasat and Inmarsat. The total missions are anticipated to receive off from originate pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Home Middle in Florida, essentially the most classic facility outfitted to accommodate the triple-core Falcon Heavy rocket.

One among the Air Force missions, designated AFSPC-Forty four, is subsequent in line to wing on a Falcon Heavy rocket. The AFSPC-Forty four mission is scheduled for originate in the autumn of 2020, essentially based on Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of the originate enterprise programs directorate at the Air Force’s Home and Missile Methods Middle.

The Air Force has now not identified the payloads on the AFSPC-Forty four mission, which the military awarded to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy in February. Documents released with the military’s inquire for proposals counsel the AFSPC-Forty four originate will loft two payloads into a circular geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles above the equator.

Within the inquire for proposals, the Air Force informed doable originate suppliers to deem the combined mass of the two payloads is lower than Eight,200 pounds, or about three.7 metric tons.

An instantaneous injection of the AFSPC-Forty four satellites into geosynchronous orbit by the Falcon Heavy rocket will require a lengthy cruise phase of more than five hours between upper stage engine burns. On the most most up-to-date Falcon Heavy mission, which lifted off Tuesday, the rocket’s upper stage completed four burns over three-and-a-half hours on a demonstration flight sponsored by the Air Force.

The complex orbital maneuvers were required to pickle the mission’s 24 satellite tv for pc payloads into three definite orbits. They moreover exercised the capabilities of the Falcon Heavy and its Merlin upper stage engine before the Air Force entrusts the launcher with more crucial, and more costly, operational nationwide safety payloads on future flights.

The Air Force formally certified the Falcon Heavy to be eligible to receive nationwide safety originate contracts after the rocket’s inaugural flight final year. A series of in-depth technical and path of critiques are now underway before the military locations a crucial nationwide safety satellite tv for pc on a Falcon Heavy.

“What we’re doing now is what we call the spaceflight worthiness path of,” Bongiovi said in a pre-originate convention call with reporters.

The successful STP-2 mission “will transfer us one step nearer to spaceflight worthiness for the AFSPC-Forty four originate in descend of 2020,” Bongiovi said before the originate.

The Falcon Heavy former on the STP-2 mission flew with reused aspect boosters recovered after the earlier Falcon Heavy originate April eleven, which delivered the industrial Arabsat 6A communications to orbit.

Officials said they’ll expend the trip from the STP-2 mission familiarizing Air Force engineers with SpaceX’s booster recovery and reuse procedures to support certify previously-flown rocket hardware for nationwide safety missions. Sooner than the STP-2 originate, all the Air Force’s launches with SpaceX, so far, bear former newly-built Falcon 9 boosters.

Artist’s theory of the STP-2 payloads on the Falcon Heavy rocket correct thru one of many upper stage’s four burns. Credit: SpaceX

After the AFSPC-Forty four originate, the Air Force plans one more Falcon Heavy mission with SpaceX in the spring 0f 2021, Bongiovi said. That originate, designated AFSPC-fifty two, used to be previously planned to receive off by September 2020, but in a briefing with reporters earlier this month, Bongiovi twice said the AFSPC-Forty four mission is the Air Force’s subsequent Falcon Heavy mission.

Admire the AFSPC-Forty four originate, the Air Force has now not identified the name or cause of the payload to be launched on the AFSPC-fifty two mission.

In a draft solicitation released for the AFSPC-fifty two mission, the Air Force said the payload required a receive ability of spherical 14,000 pounds, or 6,350 kilograms, into a geostationary transfer orbit ranging in altitude between 100 fifteen miles (185 kilometers) and 21,865 miles (35,188 kilometers), with an inclination of 27 degrees.

Viasat and Inmarsat are the two major telecommunications satellite tv for pc operators with contracts or alternatives to wing their payloads on a Falcon Heavy rocket.

SpaceX won a contract with Viasat final year to originate one of many broadband provider’s three subsequent-generation communications satellites on a Falcon Heavy. Viasat is constructing three contemporary Boeing-built satellites, identified because the ViaSat three rapid, to amplify the company’s broadband Web coverage spherical the enviornment, with spacecraft stationed over the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and over the Asia-Pacific scheme.

Viasat has booked firm originate contracts with SpaceX, United Birth Alliance and Arianespace to help one ViaSat three satellite tv for pc at a time against their working positions in geostationary orbit starting up in 2021. But the California-essentially based broadband company has now not announced the interpret of the ViaSat three launches, or which rocket will originate every satellite tv for pc.

Viasat said the Falcon Heavy will pickle its satellite tv for pc “extraordinarily terminate” to its final perch in geostationary orbit, the usage of a multi-hour originate profile equivalent to the one planned for the AFSPC-Forty four mission.

London-essentially based Inmarsat moreover has a contract option with SpaceX for a Falcon Heavy originate. Following delays in the Falcon Heavy’s first flight, Inmarsat determined to interchange the originate of one of its satellites in 2017 to a Falcon 9 rocket, but retained a contract option to wing a satellite tv for pc a future Falcon Heavy mission.

Inmarsat, which owns a network of satellites for maritime and aeronautical communications, has now not completed the Falcon Heavy contract option. Inmarsat’s CEO said in March that one of many company’s future satellites — the Airbus-made Inmarsat 6B spacecraft scheduled for originate in leisurely 2021 — also can neutral be a candidate to bear the company’s Falcon Heavy contract option, essentially based on Home Recordsdata.

SpaceX has moreover signed up one extra customer to originate a satellite tv for pc on a Falcon Heavy mission.

The Swedish company Ovzon announced final year its sequence of a Falcon Heavy rocket to haul its first geostationary communications satellite tv for pc into orbit. Ovzon’s announcement specified the satellite tv for pc would journey the Falcon Heavy at the moment into geostationary orbit.

Contingent on final financing, the Ovzon three satellite tv for pc will probably be built by Maxar’s SSL division and is anticipated to weigh lower than a ton at originate. The relatively gentle weight of the Ovzon three spacecraft suggests it will also neutral now not be dedicated originate, and might maybe perchance wing with one more payload on the Falcon Heavy.

A few SpaceX missions were announced easiest months upfront, such because the Falcon 9 originate of the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B house airplane in September 2017, and the liftoff of the U.S. govt’s mysterious Zuma payload in January 2018.

A Falcon 9 originate of a South Korean military communications satellite tv for pc, scheduled for November from Cape Canaveral, moreover went unannounced except earlier this month.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief working officer, said in Might maybe perchance also that the company plans between 18 and 21 missions this year, with the exception of flights carrying SpaceX’s bear Starlink broadband satellites.

SpaceX has completed eight missions in the principle half of the year, along with one originate dedicated to the Starlink network.

Responding to a inquire about the subsequent Falcon Heavy originate from Spaceflight Now, a SpaceX spokesperson referred to the company’s on-line manifest, which lists no Falcon Heavy missions with identified originate dates before the AFSPC-Forty four originate in leisurely 2020.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.