Spectators watch from Jetty Park as booster rocket engines approach landing pads, after a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, carrying the Arabsat 6A communications satellite, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., April 11, 2019.
Less than 10 minutes into the flight, the rocket's three boosters detached from the Falcon Heavy on schedule.
A 2018 test already had proven the side boosters could land themselves. The core booster landed two minutes later on an ocean platform hundreds of miles offshore.
And smooth it was: All three of the Falcon's rockets guided themselves home once they'd served their goal.
"The Falcons have landed", SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted. With only one successful Falcon Heavy launch under its belt, SpaceX would rather not have to delay this second flight again, but safety is a top priority.
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Musk's SpaceX, working to prove the flight-worthiness of its rocket fleet one mission at a time, aims to clinch one-third of all US National Security Space missions - coveted contracts that are worth billions of dollars. Musk replied with three red hearts. Last year's test flight put a sports auto - Musk's own Tesla - convertible into space. 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.
A couple dozen ground telescopes kept tabs on the auto during its first several days in space, but it gradually faded from view as it headed out toward the orbit of Mars, Giorgini noted. It will take decades if not centuries for solar radiation to cause it to decompose, he said. The company selected Falcon Heavy in September for a mission anticipated in late 2017 or 2018.
NASA's Saturn V rockets, used for the Apollo moon shots, are the all-time launch leaders so far in size and might.
SpaceX typically launches Falcon 9 rockets.
Until SpaceX came along, boosters were discarded in the ocean after satellite launches. The company is intent on driving down launch costs by recycling rocket parts.