The launch demonstrates SpaceX’s capability as well as Elon Musk’s entrepreneurial acumen. It will go a long way to garner lucrative satellite launch of military satellites, worth billions of dollars.
In a significant development, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world, lifted off from Florida in a key demonstration of Elon Musk’s entrepreneurial acumen as SpaceX races to clinch lucrative military launch contracts.
The 23-story-tall Heavy, blasted off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center carrying its first customer payload.
“T plus 33 seconds into flight, under the power of 5.1 million pounds of thrust, Falcon Heavy is headed to space,” said John Insprucker, SpaceX’s launch commentator on a livestream.
After around three minutes in flight, Heavy’s two side boosters separated from the core rocket for a synchronized landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, leading to boisterous cheers from SpaceX engineers at the company’s Hawthorne, California headquarters.
Having pushed the payload into space, the middle booster, returned to earth nearly 10 minutes later for a successful landing on SpaceX’s seafaring drone ship 400 miles (645 km) off the Florida coast.
In 2018, the Heavy’s core booster had missed landing on the vessel and had crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
“The Falcons have landed” tweeted Musk, inaugurating the first successful recovery of all three rocket boosters, all of which will be refurbished and re-fly in another Falcon Heavy mission this summer to carry a swarm of military and science satellites for the Air Force.
This lift-off was crucial for Heavy’s new military-certified Falcon 9 engines since it demonstrates that SpaceX has the capability to launch heavy payloads into space. The demonstration is aimed at clinching a third of all U.S. National Security Space missions, contracts which are worth billions.
In 2018, the U.S. Air Force had tapped SpaceX for the launch of a $130 million classified military satellite; in February 2019 the U.S. Air Force had awarded three more missions to SpaceX in a $297 million contract.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy carried a communications satellite for Arabsat, a Saudi-based telecom firm which will beam internet and television services over Africa, Europe and the Middle East.