The predawn launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center of a Falcon Heavy rocket June 25 was the first nighttime liftoff of SpaceX’s heavy-lifter, the most powerful launcher currently operational anywhere in the world.
The Falcon Heavy lifted off from pad 39A at 2:30 a.m. EDT (0630 GMT) with two dozen research, technology demonstration and weather observation satellites for the U.S. Air Force, NASA, NOAA, Taiwan and universities.
The rocket’s 27 Merlin 1D main engines, mounted at the base of three booster stages, drove the rocket off the launch pad with 5.1 million pounds of thrust. Less than nine minutes later, the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters returned to nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for choreographed, nearly simultaneous landings.
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