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SpaceX nails tandem landing after successful Falcon Heavy test launch

Photo: SpaceX/Flickr

What a time to be alive!

Elon Musk and the team at SpaceX has set another major milestone by successfully launching the highly anticipated Falcon Heavy rocket into space, carrying Musk’s red Tesla Roadster into an orbit beyond Mars. The test launch took place at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Falcon Heavy now stands as the most powerful rocket ever built. Even though they were able to recover only two of the three boosters, it was still a huge achievement as it proves that the larger rocket works and that multiple boosters could be recovered simultaneously.

The middle booster did not land on drone ship as two of the three engines used for landing failed to re-ignite, forcing it to veer off course and crash into the water, 300 feet from the barge.

Here is a snippet from the live stream of the two outer boosters landing in tandem on the land-based Landing Zone 1 and Landing Zone 2.

With its 27 Merlin engines delivering over 5 million pounds of thrust, the Falcon Heavy can deliver a combined payload of up to 141,000 lb into low earth orbit. This is more than twice the carrying capacity of the Delta IV heavy, but at at just one third the operational cost.

Photo: SpaceX/Flickr

Days before the launch, Musk was not too confident given the complexities of the rocket design. As he said, it’s not a simple case of strapping on two extra boosters to the side and hoping for the best.

“People [came] from all around the world to see what will either be a launch or the best fireworks display they’ve ever seen.”

He noted that thousands of things could go wrong, mentioning that some issues could include uneven thrust throwing the rocket off course, or the outer boosters failing to separate when they should.

Nonetheless, the mission went as planned. They were able to prove that the Falcon Heavy could deliver equipment into space, and also demonstrated its long distance capabilities as the upper stage coasted through the dangerous Van Allen radiation belt. Even then, it was still able to initiate a final burn, putting the red Tesla into an orbit with the Asteroid Belt.

The launch opens up SpaceX’s doors for heavier payloads. Some of its upcoming missions include delivering communications satellites for Arabsat, Inmarsat, and Viasat; as well as a test payload for the U.S. Air Force (as a proving flight).

In the mean time, you can check out the following videos.

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