The SpaceX Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world, launched for the first time this week. Powered by three Falcon 9 engine cores generating an astounding 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the rocket took off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on February 6. The two reusable side cores landed successfully at Cape Canaveral. Both of the side cores had been used in previous launches. In the one notable hitch of the mission, the center core came down at 500 kph, missed the droneship waiting for it in the Atlantic by about 100 meters, and crashed in the water instead. According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX had not been planning on reusing the center core.
The Falcon Heavy can lift nearly 141,000 pounds into orbit, though for this test launch it wasn’t carrying nearly that much. Its payload was Musk’s Tesla Roadster, which is currently headed towards Mars (literally—SpaceX is attempting “to place the Roadster into a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.”) The car was decked out for the occasion with a spacesuit-wearing dummy dubbed ‘Starman’ and the words ‘Don’t Panic!’—a nod to the Douglas Adams fans out there—on the dashboard display. We just hope Starman remembered his towel.
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