More than a year after SpaceX sent its Falcon Heavy rocket on a majestic test launch, the second Falcon Heavy put a satellite in orbit today for its first customer. It's been made even more powerful since last year's demo flight through upgrades that SpaceX refers to as Block 5, which were applied to the company's smaller Falcon 9 rocket starting in May.
SpaceX said it would try again Thursday evening.
Falcon Heavy's debut flight previous year attracted massive attention, in part because CEO Elon Musk chose to launch his own luxury Tesla Roadster as the test payload. The core booster landed two minutes later on an ocean platform hundreds of miles offshore.
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This time around, the payload was the 13,200-pound Arabsat-6A satellite, which is destined to go into geostationary orbit to provide telecommunications services to the Middle East, Africa and Europe through the Saudi-led Arabsat consortium.
Prime viewing spots were packed with tourists and locals eager to catch not just the launch but the rare and dramatic return of the twin boosters, accompanied by sonic booms. That's the only part of the first mission that missed. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Southern California cheered every launch milestone and especially the three touchdowns. But SpaceX chief Elon Musk said upper-level wind shear was extremely high. The red Roadster - with a mannequin at the wheel - remains in a solar orbit stretching just past Mars. It has three rocket boosters, which are strapped together during launch and are created to then break apart and make pinpoint landings back on Earth. The U.S. Air Force also chose Falcon Heavy for STP-2, its Space Test Program 2 mission.
SpaceX typically launches Falcon 9 rockets.
Until SpaceX came along, rocket boosters were usually discarded in the ocean after satellite launches. Falcon Heavy only has five missions on its manifest so far.