USSF-52 (Falcon Heavy)
28 December 2023
Launch Complex 39A
Kennedy Space Center

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launched the USSF-52 mission to orbit from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 8:07 p.m. on 28 December 2023. Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters landed on SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

This will be the fifth launch and landing of these Falcon Heavy side boosters, which previously supported USSF-44, USSF-67, Hughes JUPTER 3, and NASA’s Psyche mission.

A time exposure shows the launch arc at left, the entry burn of the two boosters at top, and the two boosters landing at LZ 1 & 2 on the horizon.
Twin booster separation.
Boostback burn of the two boosters.
Second stage exhaust plume.
Entry burn of one of the boosters.
Entry burn of the second booster.
Booster landing.
A time exposure shows Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters landing on SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (AFNS) -- The United States Space Force, in partnership with SpaceX, successfully launched USSF-52 on a Falcon Heavy rocket at 8:07 p.m. Eastern Time, Dec. 28, 2023, from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A.

The SpaceX rocket carried into orbit an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), marking the seventh space flight for the X-37B program and its first launch on a Falcon Heavy. The X-37B tests include operating in new orbital regimes, experimenting with space domain awareness technologies and investigating radiation effects to NASA materials.

“My memories go back to the Gemini and Mercury programs,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “This is an incredible event, and I think about the teamwork over all those decades that has led to what has been a revolutionary improvement in space travel capability. We have come so far, and it’s been teamwork by the government; the Air Force and now the Space Force, which didn't exist until a few years ago; NASA; industry teams; and so many others that all contributed to what we saw tonight.”

The X-37B is a reusable, unmanned spacecraft that strengthens the United States’ future in space by conducting technology experiments that expedite the development of next-generation capabilities.

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