SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket successfully took its second flight ever on Thursday afternoon, when it lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying Lockheed Martin’s Arabsat 6A communications satellite.
As if that weren’t exciting enough, SpaceX also managed to make history by landing three boosters back on Earth for the first time.
Just minutes into the launch, the giant rocket’s central core landed safely on SpaceX’s offshore barge in the Atlantic Ocean, dubbed ‘Of Course I Still Love You,’ while the two side boosters landed back on pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1 and 2.
‘We have landed the center core for the first time,’ a SpaceX announcer said. ‘Three for three boosters today for the Falcon Heavy.’
The megarocket took off in a cloud of smoke and fire at 6:35 p.m. (ET) carrying the high-capacity communications satellite, marking its first commercial mission.
‘Falcon Heavy is headed to space,’ a SpaceX announcer confirmed on the livestream shortly after lift-off. ‘Vehicle is supersonic.’
In a smooth launch and flight that lasted just a matter of minutes, Falcon Heavy successfully carried its first commercial payload to space.
The firm confirmed its accomplishment roughly 30 minutes after takeoff, revealing the Arabsat-6A satellite made it where it needed to go.
‘Successful deployment of Arabsat-6A to geosynchronous transfer orbit confirmed—completing Falcon Heavy’s first commercial mission!’ SpaceX tweeted.
SpaceX was forced to push back the Falcon Heavy launch several times due to uncooperative weather.
A last-minute decision to delay it yet again on Wednesday night was made because of high upper-level winds and a poor forecast that made for unsafe launch conditions.
But, Elon Musk’s rocket company confirmed in a tweet at 4:46 p.m. Thursday that ‘all systems and weather are currently go,’ for launch later that day.
It’s been fourteen months since Falcon Heavy’s maiden launch, when it blasted off to become the most powerful rocket in use today.
The latest launch marked the first time Falcon Heavy flies using the new Block 5 hardware, which is designed to last longer than previous versions without the need for refurbishment.
Because of this, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said they were being ‘extra cautious,’ and previously noted that the schedule could shift.
After its first launch last February, SpaceX managed to successfully land the two side boosters back on Earth in a remarkable, synchronized feat.
The center core, however, missed its mark and crashed into the ocean.
But this time around, all went according to plan.
The current iteration of Falcon Heavy is even more powerful than the first, with a maximum thrust of 2,550 tons, according to Musk – or about 10 percent higher than last year’s demo.
Falcon Heavy launched for the first time last year, on February 6 following roughly five years of setbacks.
The rocket boasts three reusable cores, each containing nine Merlin engines for a whopping total of 27.
This gave it a total thrust of 2,500 tons – or the equivalent of 18 Boeing 747 aircraft at full throttle.
While it isn’t more powerful than NASA’s Saturn V rocket, which took its last flight in 1973, SpaceX’s heavy-lift rocket is the most powerful currently in operation.