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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX marked a milestone today as the company's Falcon Heavy megarocket successfully lofted two dozen satellites into orbit.
The rocket blasted off from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) here at 2:30 a.m. EDT on June 25 (0630 GMT), three hours into the launch window, marking the Falcon Heavy's first flight at night and third launch overall. The launch was part of the U.S. Air Force's Space Test Program and carried payloads for universities, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the nonprofit organization The Planetary Society.
Part - Mission - SpaceX - Megarocket - Boosters
As part of the mission, SpaceX successfully landed two of the megarocket's three first-stage boosters. The two side boosters touched down at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is next door to KSC, while the central core booster narrowly missed its target — SpaceX's drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles off the Florida coast.
The core booster's miss was no big surprise. SpaceX representatives had repeatedly stressed that its touchdown would be the most difficult of the dozens that Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stages have attempted over the past few years, because today's mission required higher-than-normal speeds. Indeed, Of Course I Still Love You was stationed twice as far from shore this morning as it normally is during sea-landing attempts.
Today - Launch - Falcon - Heavy - Boosters
Today's launch was the first Falcon Heavy to fly reused boosters; the two side boosters had already flown as part of the first commercial Falcon Heavy launch, which lofted a communications satellite called Arabsat-6A, in April. The core booster of that rocket successfully landed as well, but it was lost when the boat encountered choppy seas on the way back to shore.
The other Falcon Heavy flight, a demonstration mission that launched SpaceX CEO and founder...
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