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Watch the highlights of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch on Thursday night

On the fifth time of trying, SpaceX launched its triple-booster Falcon Heavy rocket on a mission to deploy an experimental space place for the U.S. Space Force.

Mission USSF-52 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida shortly after 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 28.

SpaceX had planned to launch the mission earlier this month, but a series of issues, including poor weather conditions, forced it to call off four separate launch attempts, the most recent one on December 13.

The Elon Musk-led spaceflight company live-streamed the early part of the mission, including the launch and the landing of two of the rocket’s three boosters.

Here’s the launch:

Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/wTmY1h7ogp

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 29, 2023

About eight minutes after lift-off, the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters returned home for an upright landing while the core booster continued to power its payload to orbit.

Falcon Heavy’s side boosters have landed pic.twitter.com/U7AkELZxoI

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 29, 2023

Below is the entirety of the 28-minute live stream:

Watch Falcon Heavy launch the USSF-52 mission to orbit https://t.co/zrk4JcZ9Pt

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 26, 2023

The USSF’s X-37B space plane is on its seventh trip to space and its first since returning home in November 2022 after spending a record 908 days in orbit, beating its longest stay by 129 days.

The vehicle, which looks similar to NASA’s decommissioned space shuttle, is part of what the USSF describes as “an experimental test program” aimed at developing “reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space, and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth,” though much of the plane’s specific activities are kept secret.

Thursday’s mission marked the ninth flight for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy since its first launch five years ago. It last flew in October when it deployed the Psyche spacecraft for NASA on a mission to explore a metal asteroid.

Comprising three Falcon 9 boosters, the Falcon Heavy packs 5.5 million pounds of thrust at launch, making it one of the most powerful rockets currently in operation.

SpaceX has also started testing a way more powerful rocket — the Starship — which packs a colossal 17 million pounds of thrust, making it the most powerful rocket ever to fly. However, its first two test flights, conducted in April and November this year, ended in midair explosions.

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Trevor Mogg
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