SpaceX Launches First Commercial Rocket Into Orbit, With Saudi Satellite

James Marshall
April 12, 2019

The most powerful operational rocket in the world, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, launched its first commercial mission on Thursday from Florida in a key demonstration for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's space company in the race to grasp lucrative military launch contracts.

This time around, the payload was the 13,200-pound Arabsat-6A satellite, which is destined to go into geostationary orbit to provide telecommunications services to the Middle East, Africa and Europe through the Saudi-led Arabsat consortium.

Falcon Heavy Block 5 lifts off for the first time, April 11th.

A 2018 test already had proven the side boosters could land themselves. But the middle booster missed a seaborne platform it was created to land on, and instead splashed into the ocean.

And smooth it was: All three of the Falcon's rockets guided themselves home once they'd served their objective.

Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed two of the first-stage boosters back at Cape Canaveral, side by side, just like it did for the rocket's debut past year. With a combination of reusability, affordability, and performance unlikely to be matched for a minimum of 2+ years, SpaceX and its Falcon Heavy rocket have the opportunity to create an entirely new market in the coming years. Musk replied with three red hearts.

Falcon Heavy's debut flight a year ago attracted massive attention, in part because CEO Elon Musk made a decision to launch his own luxury Tesla Roadster as the test payload. The vehicle, 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. It will take decades if not centuries for solar radiation to cause it to decompose, he said.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine last month suggested possibly using a Falcon Heavy - and another company's big rocket - to get the space agency's Orion capsule around the moon, minus a crew, in 2020.

Since then, the USA military and private clients have signed contracts for Falcon Heavy launches, and NASA has raised the possibility it may use the rocket for its planned missions to the Moon.

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.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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