Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies launched its Falcon Heavy Rocket for the US military early Tuesday, a spectacular night move that Musk described as the company's toughest yet.
The rocket and payload shrank at 2:30 am local time from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a three-hour delay. SpaceX then recovered the rocket's two side priests – flying in April as part of the Arabsat-6A mission – at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The central core failed to land on a droneship in the Atlantic. Falcon Heavy carries 24 satellites for the space agency, defense research laboratories and other partners. SpaceX fought for the right to compete for Air Force launches and Tuesday's liftoff marks a major milestone for the company's relationship with the US military.
"It's the first multi-mission, multi-payload deployment for Falcon Heavy and that's really exciting for everyone," colleague Robert Bongiovi, director of the Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate at US Air Force Space Command, said in a statement before launch.
The mission, called STP-2, will place 24 spacecraft in three different paths. The payload includes a DSX satellite diagnostics (Air Force Research Laboratory Demonstration and Science Experiments). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-sponsored Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate-2 (COSMIC-2) and four NASA experiments, according to the SpaceX website. The final implementation will take place more than three and a half hours after the launch. Shortly before 3am local time, SpaceX's Twitter flow began to confirm the deployment of the first satellites.
SpaceX posted a corporate record last year with 21
Much of the focus in 2019 has been on the first flight with people on board. SpaceX and Boeing have contracted with NASA to fly US astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency's Commercial Crew program.
SpaceX ended the Demo-1 flight in its "Crew Dragon" in March without people on board. But by the end of April, the canister was flamed and destroyed during a test, an accident likely to drive back the commercial crew schedule. NASA and SpaceX evaluate the target date.