SpaceX Falcon Heavy sticks the landing in spectacular launch

Enlarge Image The SpaceX Falcon Heavy sits on the launchpad in Florida.                  SpaceX

SpaceX sent the Arabsat-6A communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit April 11, completing the Falcon Heavy rocket's first commercial launch.

Now, SpaceX is hoping that the fourth time is the charm, and it has another launch window scheduled for today at 6:35 p.m. EST.

"T plus 33 seconds into flight, under the power of 5.1 million pounds of thrust, Falcon Heavy is headed to space", SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker said on a livestream.

In the 2018 test mission, Falcon Heavy's core booster missed the vessel and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. But the takeoff also demonstrated, for the first time, that all three of the craft's reusable rockets could successfully pilot themselves back to Earth outside of a testing scenario. The Arabsat 6A communications satellite was built by Lockheed Martin. "Three for three boosters today on Falcon Heavy, what an fantastic accomplishment". With a combination of reusability, affordability, and performance unlikely to be matched for a minimum of 2+ years, SpaceX and its Falcon Heavy rocket have the opportunity to create an entirely new market in the coming years.

Privately owned SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, was founded in 2002 by Musk, who is also a co-founder of electric auto maker Tesla Inc.

High wind speeds far above the ground were responsible for derailing yesterday's launch, and we won't know for sure whether things are calm enough for a launch until SpaceX makes the call. It's nearly certainly still in orbit around the sun with a mannequin at the wheel.

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The rocket is expected to be used primarily for USA military missions, and to launch spy satellites and hefty commercial telecom satellites.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine last month suggested possibly using a Falcon Heavy - and another company's big rocket - to get the space agency's Orion capsule around the moon, minus a crew, in 2020.

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

SpaceX typically launches Falcon 9 rockets.

Since then, the U.S. military and private clients have signed contracts for Falcon Heavy launches, and NASA has raised the possibility it may use the rocket for its planned missions to the Moon.



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