SpaceX successfully launched the world’s heaviest and most powerful rocket ever. Falcon Heavy blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on early Tuesday.
The rocket blasted off at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday carrying 24 research satellites, a deep space atomic clock, solar sail, a clean and green rocket fuel testbed, and even human ashes.
The rocket launch marked the Falcon Heavy’s first fly at night and third launch overall. The first test launch occurred in 2018 and the second in April when it carried a Saudi telecommunications satellite to orbit.
Tuesday’s launch was also the first time SpaceX reused two if it’s Falcon Heavy booster rockets.
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.
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The Defense Department mission, named STP-2 for Space Test Program, will provide data to certify the Falcon Heavy — and reused boosters — for future national security launches. It marked the military’s first ride on a recycled rocket.
Both side boosters touched down at Cape Canaveral about 9 minutes after liftoff in a synchronized landing in the dark. But there was a problem! The new core booster should’ve landed on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You,” but missed the platform. SpaceX stationed the ship about a few hundred miles off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean. That’s twice as far as in previous launches.
MUSKSMAAAAAAASH!!!!! pic.twitter.com/0UptsVNx26— LaunchStuff (@LaunchStuff) June 25, 2019
It was the second time that a Falcon Heavy’s center booster failed to make its landing. But it wasn’t a big surprise. SpaceX had warned 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.
SpaceX said the mission was one of its most challenging launches. The company had to place the satellites in three different orbits, requiring multiple upper-stage engine firings. It was going to take several hours to release them all.
However, the spacecraft made a number of orbital maneuvers and deployed its varied payload, finishing its mission a few hours after it began.
Some of the Most Interesting Cargo
Deep Space Atomic Clock: To track missions in deep space, space agencies rely on radio signals, waiting for them to traverse the long distances. That’s why NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built the Deep Space Atomic Clock.
Atomic clocks track vibrations inside an atom like cesium, to measure time accurately. So, that will help spacecraft navigate by themselves when far from Earth.
LightSail-2: The Planetary Society’s LightSail crowd-funded spacecraft will try to become the first orbiting spacecraft to be propelled solely by sunlight. Photons from the sun don’t have any mass, but they do have momentum, and that is just enough to slightly push the solar sails, like wind on the open ocean. Engineers on the ground will be able to steer the sail as the cubesat includes a momentum wheel. Carl Sagan became the first one to propose the idea in 1970s. The satellite is the size of a loaf of bread.
Green Propellant Infusion Mission: This is another NASA payload which will test a cleaner, safer and more efficient fuel alternative to the commonly used hydrazine. Hydrazine is highly toxic and to even be near it, you would have to wear a protective Hazmat suit.
The next SpaceX launch is scheduled for July 21, when a Falcon 9 will carry a cargo shipment to the International Space Station.
You can watch the entire launch below.