SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy rocket successfully soared into orbit Tuesday, and its two strap-on boosters came back to Cape Canaveral for an electrifying double-landing punctuated by quadruple sonic booms.
The dramatic test flight took off at 3:45 p.m. EST (2045 GMT) Tuesday from launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the same facility used by the Apollo 11 lunar landing crew and numerous space shuttle missions.
Standing nearly 230 feet (70 meters) tall, the Falcon Heavy’s 27 main engines put out nearly 5 million pounds of thrust, one-and-a-half times more than any other rocket flying today, and around two-thirds the power output of the space shuttle at liftoff.
The Falcon Heavy climbed to the east over the Atlantic Ocean, then shed its two strap-on boosters and core stage for descents back to Cape Canaveral and to SpaceX’s rocket recovery platform in the Atlantic Ocean. The upper stage engine ignited for the first of three planned firings to dispatch the mission’s cargo — a road-worn electric Tesla sports car with a spacesuit-clad mannequin nicknamed “Starman” — with enough velocity to escape the bonds of Earth’s gravity.
SpaceX’s webcast concluded with dazzling video of the two side boosters touching down at Cape Canaveral, and resplendent views of the deep space-bound Tesla and Starman.
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.