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Mission success! SpaceX delivers satellite, lands all 3 Falcon Heavy boosters

Arabsat-6A Mission

Update: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket carried out its mission successfully. In addition to the launch, it also achieved the successful return of its three rocket boosters. This represents the first time in company history it has managed a triple landing.

Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket in current operation, launched at 6.35pm ET Thursday from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch was originally slated for Tuesday, then pushed back to Wednesday, and finally Thursday — with weather temporarily scuppering plans.

This was Falcon Heavy’s second-ever flight after a maiden flight 13 months ago in early 2018. On that flight, it memorably carried the Tesla Roadster belonging to SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk out of Earth’s atmosphere and into space.

Falcon Heavy’s side boosters land on Landing Zones 1 and 2

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 12, 2019

For this flight, Falcon Heavy’s cargo was a little more sensible (but less meme-able) in nature. As with many of SpaceX’s previous missions, the Falcon Heavy ferried a communications satellite. In this case, it was the Arabsat-6A communications satellite built by Lockheed Martin. It will be used to provide television, internet, and phone services in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. This satellite boasts several impressive innovations in its own right, including a lighter but more powerful solar array and more.

The launch marked an historic day for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which tips the scale at a hefty 54 metric tons (119,000 pounds) and generates more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff (the equivalent of 18 separate 474 aircraft). It is the second biggest rocket in history, trailing only the Saturn V rocket, which last took to the sky in 1973. After the Falcon Heavy, today’s biggest rival of the Falcon Heavy is the Delta IV Heavy, which has an operational payload of less than half that of SpaceX’s creation.

A commercial launch for Falcon Heavy is something many have been dreaming about since Elon Musk first described the rocket in 2005. It’s also something which seemed like it would never happen during the countless delays which got us to this point. While we were kept waiting for the launch, it’s safe to say that — when it eventually happened — it was pretty darn spectacular.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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