Elon Musk's SpaceX sends world's most powerful rocket on first commercial flight

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The Falcon Heavy was poised to blast off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday night with a communication satellite.

Less than 10 minutes into the flight, the rocket's three boosters detached from the Falcon Heavy on schedule. Following the launch, SpaceX will attempt to simultaneously return the two side boosters to landing pads and land the center core on a drone ship.

SpaceX said it would try again Thursday evening. With only one successful Falcon Heavy launch under its belt, SpaceX would rather not have to delay this second flight again, but safety is a top priority. But the middle booster missed a seaborne platform it was created to land on, and instead splashed into the ocean.

The job is to place the six-tonne Arabsat-6A satellite into geostationary orbit about 36,000km above the Earth.

Introducing a new ultra-powerful rocket has allowed SpaceX to compete directly with arch rival United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, for lucrative government contracts that require heavy-lift launch vehicles.

Make sure you don't miss the rapturous applause from SpaceX's mission control.




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. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Southern California cheered every launch milestone and especially the three touchdowns.

Privately owned SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, was founded in 2002 by Musk, who is also a co-founder of electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc. The auto, which was carrying a space-suited mannequin nicknamed Starman, was vaulted into outer space and is expected to orbit the sun for the foreseeable future.

SpaceX plans to launch its next Falcon Heavy later this year on a mission for the U.S. Air Force.

Falcon Heavy is not expected to fly almost as often as its smaller counterpart, which has completed more than 20 missions since last February.

It consists of the equivalent of three Falcon 9 rockets combined, tripling its thrust.

Until SpaceX came along, rocket boosters were usually discarded in the ocean after satellite launches. The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of those single rockets strapped together.

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