FLORIDA – SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy took flight Tuesday and everything went seamlessly.
Around 3:45 pm ET, the world’s most powerful rocket took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
About two and a half minutes after launch, the two side boosters on the rocket detached and headed back to Earth.
Thousands of onlookers could be heard cheering on SpaceX’s livestream.
The rocket is built by SpaceX, the game-changing company helmed by billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
In the run up to launch, it wasn’t at all clear whether the rocket would work.
“People [came] from all around the world to see what will either be a great rocket launch or the best fireworks display they’ve ever seen,” Elon Musk said in an interview with CNN’s Rachel Crane.
In a never-before-seen feat, SpaceX managed to guide at least two of the Falcon Heavy’s first-stage rocket boosters to land upright back on Earth. They cut back through the Earth’s atmosphere and landed in unison at a Kennedy Space Center landing pad. The third booster was supposed to land on a sea-faring platform called a droneship, but it wasn’t immediately clear if that landing was successful.
On board the rocket that’s now headed for orbit around the Earth is Musk’s personal Tesla roadster. At the wheel is a dummy dressed in a spacesuit, and the car is blaring David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” on an endless loop. Cameras on board the car showed it still nestled inside the rocket’s second-stage engine, which is headed deeper into outer space. Musk plans to put the car into orbit around the sun.
SpaceX has shaken up the rocket industry by becoming the first company to successfully reuse rocket boosters in order to bring down the cost of spaceflight. To do that, it guides the rockets back to Earth for a safe landing after sending their payloads toward orbit.
Before SpaceX came along, it was commonplace to just discard rocket boosters — which are the most expensive part of the rocket — after each mission.