Elon Musk's SpaceX sends world's most powerful rocket on first commercial flight

Christopher Davidson
April 12, 2019

SpaceX landed three of its Falcon Heavy rocket boosters for the first time on Thursday, as part of a mission which was delayed from the day before due to bad weather.

The launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida marked the first functional use of the Falcon Heavy, which took the Saudi Arabsat-6A communications satellite into orbit a year after carrying one of Elon Musk's Tesla roadsters along for an attention-getting test launch.

Eight minutes after takeoff, the spaceflight company landed the Falcon Heavy's side boosters at the company's two landing zones at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. In the 2018 test mission, Heavy's core booster missed the vessel and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

The satellite will be deployed approximately 34 minutes after liftoff.

SpaceX has two operational rockets: the Falcon 9, which with 21 launches in 2018 dominates the United States market, and the Falcon Heavy, which as its name suggests is created to lift much heavier payloads into more distant orbits.

Falcon Heavy has already been chosen for a few contracts, including a $130 million contract to launch an Air Force satellite that was awarded just four months after its inaugural flight in February 2018.

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Until SpaceX came along, boosters were discarded in the ocean after satellite launches.

The satellite is created to provide television, internet, telephone, and secure communications to customers in the Middle East.

The Roadster is thought to be on the other side of the sun from us right now, about three-quarters of the way around its first solar orbit, said senior analyst at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Jon Giorgini.

"Three for three boosters today", a SpaceX webcast commentator said. It has three rocket boosters, which are strapped together during launch and are created to then break apart and make pinpoint landings back on Earth. Before the rocket finally launched more than two years later, Musk suggested to several news outlets, including CNN, that the rocket could explode. The SpaceX team made sure to add more fluid this time. As SpaceX explains on its website, this vehicle is the most powerful (operational) rocket now in existence.

Falcon Heavy is not expected to fly almost as often as its smaller counterpart, which has completed more than 20 missions since last February.

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