Nasa technology demonstrations and other science missions were launched into space on Tuesday aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket from the space agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US.

The missions lifted off at 2:30am EDT and were part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) launch.

Nasa’s Space Technology Mission Directorate associate administrator Jim Reuter said: “This launch was a true partnership across government and industry, and it marked an incredible first for the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

“The Nasa missions aboard the Falcon Heavy also benefited from strong collaborations with industry, academia and other government organisations.”

The missions will help in smarter spacecraft design and benefit the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration plans by offering more insight into the effects of radiation in space and testing an atomic clock that could change how spacecraft navigate.

Now that the launch and deployments have completed, the missions will start to power on, communicate with Earth and gather data.

Each of these missions will operate for a year, offering sufficient time to mature the technologies and gather valuable science data.

How much of an impact will the COVID-19 outbreak have on the revenue of aerospace companies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Two Nasa CubeSats that form the Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment (E-TBEx) were deployed at 3:08am and 3:13am.

Working along with NOAA’s COSMIC-2 mission, E-TBEx will explore bubbles in the electrically charged layers of Earth’s upper atmosphere, that can disrupt communications and GPS signals.

Nasa’s Deep Space Atomic Clock is a compact instrument travelling aboard a commercial satellite that was released into a low-Earth orbit at 3:54am.

The clock will test a new way for spacecraft to navigate in deep space. The technology is expected to make GPS-like navigation possible at the Moon and Mars.

The Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) was deployed at 3:57am and has started to power on.

GPIM will test a new propulsion system that operates on a high-performance, non-toxic spacecraft fuel.

This technology is expected to help propel constellations of small satellites in and beyond a low-Earth orbit.

The last spacecraft to be released from STP-2 at 6:04am was the US Air Force Research Laboratory’s Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX). Onboard the rocket was an instrument designed by JPL to measure spacecraft vibrations and four Nasa experiments that collectively form the Space Environment Testbeds (SET).

SET will examine how to better protect satellites from space radiation by analysing the harsh environment of space near Earth. This mission will test several strategies to reduce the impact.