SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket’s Arabsat-6A satellite launch was a success

12 Avril, 2019, 06:00 | Auteur: Therese Cote
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In the 2018 test mission, Falcon Heavy's core booster missed the vessel and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

"What an fantastic day", a SpaceX flight commentator exclaimed. "Three for three boosters today on Falcon Heavy, what an wonderful accomplishment".

The Falcon Heavy had been scheduled to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday but that was delayed because of strong winds in the upper atmosphere. Their return was heralded by a fusillade of sonic booms.

Liftoff with Heavy's new military-certified Falcon 9 engines was crucial in the race with Boeing-Lockheed venture United Launch Alliance and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin as Musk's SpaceX, working to flight-prove its rocket fleet one mission at a time, aims to clinch a third of all U.S. National Security Space missions - coveted military contracts worth billions.

Because this was an upgraded version of the rocket with unproven changes, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk cautioned in advance that things might go wrong. But everything went exceedingly well and the satellite ended up in the proper orbit. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Southern California cheered every launch milestone and especially the three touchdowns.

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SpaceX and Boeing Co are vying to send humans to space from USA soil for the first time in almost a decade under NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Musk replied with three red hearts. The vehicle, 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. The boosters for that flight may be recycled from this one.

Falcon Heavy has already been chosen for a few contracts, including a $130 million contract to launch an Air Force satellite that was awarded just four months after its inaugural flight in February 2018. But the preferred method remains NASA's own Space Launch System mega rocket - if it can be ready by then.

It consists of the equivalent of three Falcon 9 rockets combined, tripling its thrust. The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of those single rockets strapped together.

With this flawless triple recovery in hand, SpaceX now has plans to reuse both side boosters as early as June 2019, while the center core will likely support critical reusability analysis and may also launch again in the near future.

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