SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket Launched in Company's First Commercial Mission

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket Launched in Company's First Commercial Mission

The huge Arabsat 6A satellite - weighing around 6450 kg (14,200 lb) is not quite the heaviest individual spacecraft SpaceX has launched, but it is by far the highest energy orbit SpaceX has reached with a spacecraft anywhere close to its size. Mission managers are now targeting this evening, again at 6:35 p.m. EDT, with an approximately two-hour launch window. Eastern time from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The two side boosters touched down eight minutes and one second after liftoff on Landing Zone 1 and 2 at the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX then recovered all three of the boosters back on Earth, achieving a feat it wasn't able to pull off in the rocket's demonstration flight a year ago.

The webcast should begin about 20 minutes before the rocket's anticipated liftoff.

Introducing a new ultra-powerful rocket has allowed SpaceX to compete directly with arch rival United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, for lucrative government contracts that require heavy-lift launch vehicles.

SpaceX has launched its second supersized rocket from Florida, a year after sending up a sports vehicle on the initial test flight. 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.

Because this was an upgraded version of the rocket with unproven changes, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk cautioned in advance that things might go wrong. The Falcon Heavy has three boosters with 27 Merlin liquid-propellant engines in total, giving it more than 5 million pounds of thrust-the most for a launch since the Saturn V rocket last used for Apollo moon missions in early 1970s.

However, with Musk's company intent on driving down launch costs by recycling rocket parts, the boosters for this flight may be re-used for future missions.

SpaceX plans to launch its next Falcon Heavy later this year on a mission for the U.S. Air Force. It will include coverage of the landing attempts and satellite deploy.

The satellite SpaceX will launch on Wednesday will update satellite coverage for Arabsat, which is based in Riyadh and delivers hundreds of television channels and radio stations to homes across the Middle East and North Africa.

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