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SpaceX Falcon Heavy readies for its first joint DOD/NASA/NOAA mission: Air Force kicks off “Summer of Launch ‘19” campaign

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle atop the Mobile Strongback Transporter, containing the Space Test Program-2 payloads encapsulated within the protective fairing, rolls up to position at Launch Complex-39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. (Photo: SpaceX)

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle atop the Mobile Strongback Transporter, containing the Space Test Program-2 payloads encapsulated within the protective fairing, rolls up to position at Launch Complex-39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. (Photo: SpaceX)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. --

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle has rolled onto historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center, in preparation for this evening’s launch of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission.

This exciting mission is a collaborative effort of the newly formed functional corps of the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC). The STP-2 portfolio of satellites are managed by SMC’s Development Corps, and the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch services are managed by SMC’s Enterprise Corps. 

A key component of the SMC’s Enterprise Corps – the Launch Enterprise’s “Summer of Launch ‘19” campaign, this space mission marks the first of four scheduled launches to occur within 31 days.

After STP-2, NASA plans to launch its Ascent Abort-2 test flight of the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle’s launch abort system on July 2. The fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency mission, or AEHF-5, is slated to launch no earlier than July 12.  The next Global Positioning System satellite, GPS III SV-02, nicknamed “Magellan” is targeted to launch on the last “single stick” Delta IV Medium on July 25.

STP-2 will be the first DOD mission on SpaceX’s newest and most powerful launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy. Demonstrating SMC’s and the broader space community’s cutting-edge solutions for space access, the STP-2 mission also signals three historical firsts:  the first re-use of launch vehicle flight hardware for the Defense Department, the first multi-payload, multi-orbit mission for the Falcon Heavy, and the first Defense Department mission on a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.

This STP-2 launch will provide the U.S. Air Force with insight into the SpaceX booster recovery and refurbishing process. The data and lessons learned will inform Air Force standards for mission assurance and enable future National Security Space missions on launch vehicles using previously flown boosters.

“We’re thrilled about the upcoming STP-2 mission,” said Mr. Michael Dolan, Deputy Director, SMC Space Enterprise Corps. “SMC’s Space Enterprise Corps is excited to partner with SpaceX to provide innovative launch services for NASA and NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association] experiments important military and civil efforts, while demonstrating the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle’s capabilities for future operational National Security Space missions. The STP-2 mission exemplifies our SMC 2.0 transformation—pursuing partnerships and achieving innovative solutions to deliver space capabilities for the Air Force and the Defense Department.”

“This will be a momentous launch for NASA, NOAA, and the DOD,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of SMC’s Launch Enterprise.  “This SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch allows the Air Force an opportunity to learn more about launch vehicle reusability, reliability, and application to future National Security Space missions. It is also a hugely complex launch, placing 24 satellites into 3 different orbits. We are looking forward to a successful launch.”

Using multiple launch vehicle upper-stage burns and maneuvers, the STP-2 mission will provide space access for 24 experiments sponsored by the Defense Department, NASA, and NOAA. The technologies on board STP-2 will improve weather forecasting, space environmental monitoring, propulsion, communications and many other advanced space technologies.

The launch window opens at 11:30 p.m. Eastern, and will remain open approximately four hours. A live-feed will begin 20 minutes prior to the launch, concluding approximately 45 minutes afterward. A simulcast of the broadcast can be viewed at www.spacex.com/webcast or www.nasa.gov/ntv

The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems.  Its portfolio includes the development of advanced space and launch capability and systems, global positioning systems, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

Follow the events on social media at #SummerOfLaunch19 and #SpaceStartsHere.

 

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