SpaceX has successfully launched its largest and heaviest rocket, Falcon Heavy during its first demonstration mission on Tuesday, February 6 from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
The rocket lifted off at 3:45 p.m. EST from the historic launch pad. The launch, originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m., was delayed for several hours due to wind conditions.
The payload for the demonstration mission is a midnight-cherry Tesla Roadster owned by Elon Musk, the CEO and Lead Designer of SpaceX. The Tesla Roadster is playing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and carrying a dummy pilot dubbed “Starman.”
Three cores make up the first stage of Falcon Heavy. The side cores, or boosters, are connected to the center core at its base and at the vehicle’s interstage. For this test flight, Falcon Heavy’s two side cores are both flight-proven. One launched the Thaicom 8 satellite in May 2016 and the other supported the CRS-9 mission in July 2016.
Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side cores landed at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Falcon Heavy’s center core was supposed to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which is stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. But, the fate of the booster is not yet clear as the smoke obscured the camera and then the feed cut out from vibrations on the deck.
Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two, with the ability to lift more than twice the payload of the next vehicle, at one-third the cost. The rocket has the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)–a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel.
Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit.
With a total of 27 Merlin engines, Falcon Heavy’s three cores are capable of generating more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft.