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Elon Musk's SpaceX sends world's most powerful rocket on first commercial flight

12 April 2019

SpaceX made headlines early past year with the first-ever launch of the Falcon Heavy, and the successful return of two of its three boosters was a stunning sight.

A 2018 test already had proven the side boosters could land themselves.

And smooth it was: All three of the Falcon's rockets guided themselves home once they'd served their objective.

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Roughly three minutes after clearing the launch pad, Falcon Heavy's two side boosters separated from the core rocket for a synchronised landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just like it did for the rocket's debut a year ago.

The rocket is expected to be used primarily for USA military missions, and to launch spy satellites and hefty commercial telecom satellites. The red Roadster - with a mannequin, dubbed Starman, likely still at the wheel - remains in a solar orbit stretching just past Mars.

In the 2018 test mission, Falcon Heavy's core booster missed the vessel and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. As usual, the live stream will include commentary from SpaceX staff, along with details about the mission and status of the spacecraft.

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Until SpaceX came along, boosters were discarded in the ocean after satellite launches. With only one successful Falcon Heavy launch under its belt, SpaceX would rather not have to delay this second flight again, but safety is a top priority. All three of the rocket's boosters safely landed on Earth; the side boosters for this launch hadn't previously been used. It will include coverage of the landing attempts and satellite deploy.

Though Falcon Heavy's inaugural launch ultimately went off without a hitch, SpaceX will now have to repeat that success with the added risk of carrying a multimillion dollar satellite.

SpaceX has several paying customers committed to flying on Falcon Heavy, including Inmarsat, Viastat and Arabsat, according to its launch manifest.

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The satellite SpaceX will launch on Wednesday will update satellite coverage for Arabsat, which is based in Riyadh and delivers hundreds of television channels and radio stations to homes across the Middle East and North Africa. Falcon Heavy only has five missions on its manifest so far.

Elon Musk's SpaceX sends world's most powerful rocket on first commercial flight