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Elon Musk’s Giant SpaceX Rocket Makes Triumphant Launch

Falcon Heavy is designed to place up to 70 tons into standard low-Earth  orbit at a cost of $90 million per launch.Falcon Heavy is designed to place up to 70 tons into standard low-Earth  orbit at a cost of $90 million per launch.

The world’s most powerful rocket, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, roared into space through clear blue skies in its debut test flight on Tuesday from a Florida launch site where moon missions once began, in another milestone for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private rocket service.

The 23-story-tall jumbo rocket, carrying a cherry red Tesla Roadster from the assembly line of Musk’s electric car company as a mock payload, thundered off its launchpad in billowing clouds of steam and rocket exhaust from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, news outlets reported. 

Within three minutes, the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters separated from the central rocket in one of the most critical points of the flight.

Then, capitalizing on cost-cutting reusable rocket technology pioneered by SpaceX, the two boosters flew themselves back to Earth for safe simultaneous touchdowns on twin landing pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, about eight minutes after launch. Each rocket unleashed a double sonic boom as it neared the landing zone.

Still, the Silicon Valley mogul known for self-deprecating understatement hailed the launch as a victory and “a big relief.”

The successful liftoff was a key turning point for Musk’s privately-owned Space Exploration Technologies, which stands to gain a new edge over the handful of rivals vying for lucrative contracts with NASA, satellite companies and the US military.

Falcon Heavy is designed to place up to 70 tons into standard low-Earth orbit at a cost of $90 million per launch. That is twice the lift capacity of the biggest existing rocket in America’s space fleet - the Delta 4 Heavy of rival United Launch Alliance (ULA), a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co - for about a fourth the cost.

The demonstration flight put the Heavy into the annals of spaceflight as the world’s most powerful rocket in operation, with more lift capacity than any space vehicle to fly since NASA’s Saturn 5, which was retired in 1973, or the Soviet-era Energia, which flew its last mission in 1988.

Going along for the ride in a bit of playful cross-promotional space theatre was the sleek red, electric-powered sports car from Musk’s other transportation enterprise, Tesla Inc.

 

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