SpaceX sends world's most powerful rocket on first commercial flight

Olive Hawkins
April 15, 2019

SpaceX carried out its first commercial launch on Thursday with its Falcon Heavy rocket easing a Saudi telecoms satellite into orbit. The rocket launched with a cherry-red Tesla Roadster and a mannequin passenger, dubbed Starman, sitting in the driver's seat.

SpaceX and Boeing Co are vying to send humans to space from United States soil for the first time in almost a decade under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, atop a Falcon 9 rocket, cleared its first unmanned test flight last month ahead of its crewed mission planned for July, while the first unmanned test for Boeing's Starliner capsule is slated for August on ULA's Atlas 5 rocket.

Touchdown! The two side boosters successfully landed at SpaceX's Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. In the 2018 test mission, Heavy's core booster missed the vessel and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

The latest launch marked the first time Falcon Heavy flies using the new Block 5 hardware, which is created to last longer than previous versions without the need for refurbishment.

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The fairing is a piece of material that's part of the rocket's nosecone, protecting the payload, which can include things like satellites, during launch.

And even before that point, SpaceX was already celebrating the successful landing of Falcon Heavy's three individual boosters. After both the side boosters were safe and sound the live stream camera shifted to the remote feed from the drone ship, and just before the rocket touched down the feed died.

It consists of the equivalent of three Falcon 9 rockets combined, tripling its thrust.

Since then, the United States military and private clients have signed contracts for Falcon Heavy launches, and NASA has raised the possibility it may use the rocket for its planned missions to the Moon.

Ultimately, NASA decided that it would stick with the SLS to perform the mission, but Bridenstine noted that the Falcon Heavy could become a part of NASA's long-term plans in the future. While many SpaceX fairings have been pulled from the water over the years and put back into service, the ultimate goal is to avoid having to refurbish the components to deal with corrosion caused by salt water - which is expensive and time-consuming.

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