CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center early Tuesday morning in what the company said was one of its most complicated launches to date.
The rocket blasted off at exactly 2:30 a.m., three hours after its launch window opened at 11:30 p.m.
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After the launch, the rocket’s center core failed to land on a drone ship on the Atlantic, but the side boosters successfully landed back at the Cape, producing a sonic boom that Central Floridians reported hearing as far away as Clermont and Davenport.
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The boosters landed about 10 minutes after liftoff, and the core missed its target about 2 minutes later.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk called the launch the most "difficult launch ever," and one of the company's most challenging missions to date.
The launch was scheduled to be the first night mission for the Falcon Heavy rocket. It was also the first time SpaceX is releasing satellites and other experiments into three separate orbits.
The rocket deployed two dozen spacecraft, which was set to take hours and require some complicated maneuvering.
"Obviously the more orbits you need to put payloads into, the harder the mission is to do," Phil Liebrecht, with NASA, said.
NASA officials said that in addition to Department of Defense satellites on board, there were also four NASA payloads, which are part of the Space Test Program 2 mission.
The payloads include new technologies to improve how spacecraft propel and navigate.
The first is NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC), which works like a GPS for orbiting satellites.
Currently, spacecraft flying beyond Earth don't have a GPS system, and officials said DSAC will help spacecraft navigate autonomously.
On board are also NASA science missions to help better understand the nature of space and how it impacts technology on spacecraft and the ground.
“This launch was a true partnership across government and industry, and it marked an incredible first for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
“The NASA missions aboard the Falcon Heavy also benefited from strong collaborations with industry, academia and other government organizations.”
You can catch the launch in its entirety below:
This mission marks the first reuse of side boosters that flew on a previous Falcon Heavy mission pic.twitter.com/4Zl7miTQ24— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 22, 2019
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