The Falcon Heavy rocket launched early Tuesday—two cores made it back safely

  • That’s the center core of the Falcon Heavy rocket just missing the drone ship. [credit:
    SpaceX webcast ]

2:50am ET Tuesday Update: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launched at 2:30am ET on Tuesday morning, sending its payload of 24 satellites into space. Less than three minutes after the launch, the rocket’s two side-mounted boosters separated from the first stage’s center core, and subsequently returned to make a safe landing near Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

At 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the flight, the rocket’s upper stage separated from the center core and flew onward, into the first of several orbits. The center core then attempted to make the “hottest” landing of a Falcon rocket to date, more than 1,200km down range on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX founder Elon Musk had warned earlier that, because of the core’s exceedingly high energy during its return to Earth, it only had about a 50 percent chance of landing on the drone ship. It didn’t quite make it, making a visible explosion as it hit the water nearby.

Meanwhile, the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage still had much work to do. Over the next 3 hours and 30 minutes, it was slated to drop off 24 satellites into three different orbits.

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