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SpaceX launched its second supersized rocket and for the first time landed all three boosters Thursday, a year after sending up a sports car on the initial test flight.
The new and improved Falcon Heavy thundered into the early evening sky with a communication satellite called Arabsat, the rocket's first paying customer. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in use today, with 27 engines firing at liftoff—nine per booster.
Minutes - Liftoff - SpaceX - First-stage - Boosters
Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed two of the first-stage boosters back at Cape Canaveral, side by side, just like it did for the rocket's debut last year. The core booster landed two minutes later on an ocean platform hundreds of miles offshore. That's the only part of the first mission that missed.
"What an amazing day," a SpaceX flight commentator exclaimed. "Three for three boosters today on Falcon Heavy, what an amazing accomplishment."
Falcon - Heavy - NASA - Kennedy - Space
The Falcon Heavy soared from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, using the same pad that shot Apollo astronauts to the moon a half-century ago and later space shuttle crews.
Nearby beaches and other prime viewing spots were packed with tourists and locals eager to catch not just the launch but the rare and dramatic return of twin boosters, accompanied by sonic booms. The roads were also jammed for Wednesday night's launch attempt, which was scuttled by high wind.
Version - Rocket - Changes - SpaceX - Chief
Because this was an upgraded version of the rocket with unproven changes, SpaceX chief Elon Musk cautioned in advance things might go wrong. But everything went exceedingly well and the satellite ended up in the proper orbit. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Southern California cheered every launch milestone and especially the three touchdowns.
"The Falcons have landed," Musk said in a tweet that included pictures of all three boosters.
NASA - Congratulations - Launch - Pads - @
NASA offered swift congratulations. "From our iconic launch pads at @NASAKennedy, we will continue to support...
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