Launching the most powerful operational rocket in the world, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, has launched its first commercial mission.
The launch is considered as a key demonstration for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space company in the race to grasp lucrative military launch contracts. Roughly three minutes after clearing the launch pad, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters separated from the core rocket for a synchronised landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just like it did for the rocket’s debut last year. The middle booster, after pushing the payload into space, returned nearly 10 minutes later for a successful landing on SpaceX’s seafaring drone ship waiting 645 kilometres off the Florida coast. In the 2018 test mission, Falcon Heavy’s core booster missed the vessel and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
A successful lift-off with Falcon Heavy’s new military-certified Falcon 9 boosters was a crucial element in the race against Boeing-Lockheed venture United Launch Alliance and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to secure lucrative military contracts. 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 llars. The US Air Force tapped SpaceX in 2018 to launch a classified military satellite, which cost it USD 130 million and in February added three more missions in a USD 297 million contract.