SpaceX has two operational rockets: the Falcon 9, which with 21 launches in 2018 dominates the U.S. market, and the Falcon Heavy, which as its name suggests is created to lift much heavier payloads into more distant orbits.
This is the first time that SpaceX has landed all three of Falcon Heavy's rocket boosters.
Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed two of the first-stage boosters back at Cape Canaveral, side by side, just like it did for the rocket's debut previous year.
This isn't SpaceX's final launch from the Florida-based space center: On April 26, a Falcon 9 rocket will carry a Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station (ISS), which is expected to bring more equipment and supplies to the astronauts aboard the habitable artificial satellite.
The rocket exerts 5.1 million pounds of thrust - that of more than a dozen jetliners, SpaceX said. Then, as it launched, all of this energy poured forth from 27 engines in a meticulously controlled explosion for the goal of sending a 6-ton satellite into geostationary orbit. A couple of hours after Thursday's launch, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared two photos of the fairing halves that encapsulated the Arabsat-6A satellite.
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The rocket is composed of three Modified Falcon 9 booster stages, sporting a total of 27 powerful Merlin engines. The company will also try to land the center core booster on a robotic drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida.
The massive Falcon Heavy rocket was tested successfully in 2018 when it managed to carry a red Tesla roadster to space. It launched into the sky Thursday evening with Arabsat-6A, a Saudi Arabian satellite built by Lockheed Martin and operated by Saudi Arabia.
Paul Niedermann of Rockford, Ill., was among those who made a special trip to Florida to see the launch.
"I arrived on Sunday knowing there can be delays".
"The Falcons have landed", Musk tweeted. A Falcon Heavy launch costs $90 million while the price tag for the Delta IV Heavy provided by the United Launch Alliance is considerably steeper at $500 million. Falcon Heavy's third launch could happen as early as June 2019 - two months from now - if everything is safely recovery.