Published: Fri, April 12, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral successful

SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral successful

Arabsat needs SpaceX to send its Arabsat-6A communications satellite into Earth orbit, and SpaceX wants to make good on its promise that the Falcon Heavy can fulfill a commercial need.

Falcon Heavy vaulted a pricey communications satellite into orbit for Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat.

The Falcon Heavy had been scheduled to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday but that was delayed because of strong winds in the upper atmosphere. As in a previous test performance, the twin side boosters eased themselves to touchdown at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station without incident, while, in a SpaceX first, the center core rocket also landed safely - by guiding itself to the deck of an offshore drone vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first time the company had landed all three boosters for Falcon Heavy.

About 34 minutes after liftoff, the shiny silver satellite was successfully deployed. "Three for three boosters today on Falcon Heavy, what an fantastic accomplishment".

Falcon Heavy is created to launch large commercial payloads into high orbits, take on heavy-duty national security missions and potentially power interplanetary missions as well.

Because this was an upgraded version of the rocket with unproven changes, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk cautioned in advance that things might go wrong. Last year's test flight put a sports auto - Musk's own Tesla - convertible into space.

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Musk's SpaceX, working to prove the flight-worthiness of its rocket fleet one mission at a time, aims to clinch one-third of all US National Security Space missions - coveted contracts that are worth billions of dollars.

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, boosters were discarded in the ocean after satellite launches.

SpaceX typically launches Falcon 9 rockets. It's nearly certainly still in orbit around the sun with a mannequin at the wheel.

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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