After many long years of waiting, on Tuesday, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket into space. Though it seemed the launch was going to be scrubbed, the Elon Musk’s aerospace company pulled it off just in time — just 45 minutes before the launch window closed.
And damn, did they do it in style.
Those at Cape Canaveral — and others watching from home — witnessed the rocket system, comprised of three boosters with nine engines each, collectively generate 5 million pounds of thrust at lift-off from launchpad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.
As the rocket shot into the sky, worries that ice build-up on the central booster’s might fall onto the shorter side-cores was present, as the were concerns that the side boosters may snap off the central booster from the pressure. Luckily for SpaceX, those disaster scenarios didn’t occur as the rocket shot through the blue Floridian sky. There was no fireworks display of explosions on Tuesday, just controlled rocket science.
The real show was only beginning, though. The three boosters separated from each other on the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, flipped according to plan, and headed back to Earth. The two side boosters landed side-by-side in perfect unison on landing pads near the launch site a few minutes after launch:
The central booster didn’t fare as well. It was supposed to land on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You, floating in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, but hit water instead. The would-be feat was dampened by a video camera that apparently shorted out because of the heat and pressure of the incoming rocket.
The best was yet to come though: The payload for this demonstration mission — SpaceX hopes to show how its reusable rockets can be combined to carry heavier payloads and astronauts to space — was made for an internet audience.
Musk has been talking about the Falcon Heavy rocket since 2011. It seemed it would launch in September, but that was pushed back due to January, and then on January 27, Musk announced the launch date.
Then on Monday, SpaceX shared this incredible animation of what it expected the test launch to look like.
If you missed it, here’s the full mission: