The most powerful operational rocket in the world, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, launched its first commercial mission on Thursday from Florida in a key demonstration for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's space company in the race to grasp lucrative military launch contracts.
The Falcon Heavy's liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center created a spectacle, just as it did during the maiden launch.
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.
Then, at around nine minutes after takeoff, the core booster landed on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship, which is stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was the first time the company had landed all three boosters for Falcon Heavy.
SpaceX has several paying customers committed to flying on Falcon Heavy, including Inmarsat, Viastat and Arabsat, according to its launch manifest.More news: Disney Plus Unveils Exclusive Series, Movies, Launch Date & More
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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. The U.S. Air Force also chose Falcon Heavy for STP-2, its Space Test Program 2 mission.
Until SpaceX came along, rocket boosters were usually discarded in the ocean after satellite launches.
"The Falcons have landed", Musk said in a tweet that included pictures of all three boosters. The red Roadster - with a mannequin, dubbed Starman, likely still at the wheel - remains in a solar orbit stretching just past Mars.
It consists of the equivalent of three Falcon 9 rockets combined, tripling its thrust.
The satellite is created to provide television, internet, telephone, and secure communications to customers in the Middle East.
However, with Musk's company intent on driving down launch costs by recycling rocket parts, the boosters for this flight may be re-used for future missions. Although SpaceX has made "many good design improvements" from the rocket that launched 14 months ago, Musk said there is a 5 to 10 percent chance of failure with this mission.