SpaceX launched its second supersized rocket and for the first time landed all three boosters Thursday, a year after sending up a sports car on the initial test flight. The new and improved Falcon Heavy thundered into the early evening sky with a communication satellite called Arabsat, the rocket's first paying customer, the AP reports. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in use today, with 27 engines firing at liftoff—nine per booster. 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 last year. The core booster landed two minutes later on an ocean platform hundreds of miles offshore. That's the only part of the first mission that missed.
"What an amazing day," a SpaceX flight commentator exclaimed. The Falcon Heavy soared from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, using the same pad that shot Apollo astronauts to the moon a half-century ago. Prime viewing spots were packed with tourists and locals eager to catch not just the launch but the rare and dramatic return of twin boosters, accompanied by sonic booms. Because this was an upgraded version of the rocket with unproven changes, SpaceX chief Elon Musk cautioned in advance things might go wrong. But everything went exceedingly well. SpaceX employees at headquarters in Southern California cheered every launch milestone and especially the three touchdowns. SpaceX plans to launch its next Falcon Heavy later this year.
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