SpaceX Launches First Commercial Rocket Into Orbit, With Saudi Satellite

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Falcon Heavy launch delayed again, now targeted for Thursday evening

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying a communication satellite lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, April 11, 2019.

The job is to place the six-tonne Arabsat-6A satellite into geostationary orbit about 36,000km above the Earth.

Eight minutes after takeoff, the spaceflight company landed the Falcon Heavy's side boosters at the company's two landing zones at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. But that same test also resulted in the core rocket falling into the Atlantic, giving SpaceX a two-of-three success rate that put additional pressure on Thursday's launch to go smoothly.


"The Falcons have landed" he wrote on Twitter, inaugurating the first successful recovery of all three rocket boosters, which will be refurbished and re-fly in another Falcon Heavy mission this summer to carry a swarm of military and science satellites for the Air Force.

The Arabsat-6A satellite deployed from the rocket's second-stage about 34 minutes after liftoff.

"Three for three boosters today", a SpaceX webcast commentator said. The roads were also jammed for Wednesday night's launch attempt, which was scuttled by high wind. Last year's test flight put a sports vehicle - Musk's own Tesla - convertible into space. 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. 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.


Back in February 2018, the test payload was SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster with a mannequin nicknamed Starman in the driver's seat. The auto, which was carrying a space-suited mannequin nicknamed Starman, was vaulted into outer space and is expected to orbit the sun for the foreseeable future. Much of the focus this year is on the first flight with humans on board: SpaceX and Boeing Co. have contracts with NASA to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency's Commercial Crew program.

Falcon Heavy is not expected to fly almost as often as its smaller counterpart, which has completed more than 20 missions since last February.

SpaceX typically launches Falcon 9 rockets.


Until SpaceX came along, boosters were discarded in the ocean after satellite launches. The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of those single rockets strapped together.

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