By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – SpaceX on Tuesday successfully launched the world’s most powerful rocket, Falcon Heavy.
It carried the red Tesla Roadster car belonging to SpaceX – and Tesla – CEO Elon Musk, into orbit. Shortly after the launch, two of the rocket’s side boosters fell back to earth and successfully landed so they could be used again.
The rocket launched at roughly 8:45 p.m. GMT from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
With 27 engines, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in the world. It is also the largest rocket ever built by a commercial firm. The rocket blasted off with the force of five million pounds of thrust. The Falcon Heavy can carry roughly 63,500 kilograms (140,000 pounds) of cargo into orbit, i.e., more than double the amount of any other rocket today.
SpaceX notes that it can carry that massive quantity at one-third of the cost of the next most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy built by SpaceX rival United Launch Alliance.
Musk uploaded videos recorded from the rocket and car on Twitter as they circled the planet. A dummy astronaut was placed inside the driver’s seat of the Tesla.
“View from SpaceX Launch Control,” he said, joking. “Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth.”
SpaceX first developed plans for the Falcon Heavy in 2011 with goals of launching one in 2013 or 2014. However, delays in its development and the failure of several other of SpaceX’s rockets meant the Falcon Heavy did not come to fruition until seven years after it was first proposed.
The launch was delayed again by weather on Tuesday, but the clouds cleared up enough to send it into orbit.
As to why the company launched a luxury automobile into space, Musk tweeted last March SpaceX wanted the Falcon Heavy’s payload to be “silliest thing we can imagine”.