Science

Next SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch could take place before Christmas

The launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket this week was the first of its kind in 40 months and has whetted the appetites of space lovers.

Fans of the Falcon Heavy, the massive rocket built by SpaceX, won’t have as much of a break next time after the epic November 1st launch that lifted a military satellite into space. The next mission could start as early as December, although the timing is highly uncertain.

There are two contenders for the next launch: another military satellite on behalf of the Space Force, or a communications satellite for ViaSat to start three broadband launches.

ViaSat has yet to confirm its October pledge (will open in a new tab) that the launch will take place later this year and probably won’t happen until financial results are released on Tuesday (November 8), at the earliest. SpaceFlightNow Launch Calendar (will open in a new tab) assumes NET (not earlier than) December 2022, but the date has been chosen and may be moved to the new year.

Related: Why SpaceX hasn’t launched a Falcon Heavy rocket since 2019

Alternatively, according to an October report by SpaceFlightNow, a classified payload for the Space Force (called USSF-67) should arrive as early as January 2023. (will open in a new tab)who found possible clues about the satellite’s functionality in the mission patch.

“Mission updates for the launch of USSF-67 indicate that it will carry the second spacecraft for the Space Force’s Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM or CBAS program,” the report said. “The first CBAS satellite was launched in 2018, when officials said that the satellite was designed to transmit communications signals between top leaders and combat commanders.”

The long hiatus since the last launch in June 2019 has been mostly due to delays in delivering payloads in the rocket manifest, but in the meantime, SpaceX has moved forward several times a month by launching its much lighter Falcon 9 workhorse. In 2022, it has already achieved more than 50 of them, which is a record.

The Falcon Heavy itself is built on first-stage boosters, all modified versions of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that can make vertical landings after liftoff. (The main stage usually falls on a SpaceX unmanned craft in the ocean, although Tuesday’s launch took place in the ocean due to the need to use most of the propellant to get the satellite into geostationary orbit.)

Elizabeth Howell is co-author of Why Am I Taller? (will open in a new tab)? (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), space medicine book. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or facebook (will open in a new tab).

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