SpaceX's most powerful Falcon Heavy launches successfully on its first commercial mision

Enlarge Image Falcon Heavy's center core landed on the SpaceX droneship.                  Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser  CNET

SpaceX carried out its first commercial launch on Thursday with its Falcon Heavy rocket easing a Saudi telecoms satellite into orbit.

Falcon Heavy is a part of Space X's growing service offerings, which are aided by the boosters' ability to be reused in later flights.

The Roadster is thought to be on the other side of the sun from us right now, about three-quarters of the way around its first solar orbit, said senior analyst at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Jon Giorgini.

One of the hallmarks of most Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches are the landings carried out by the rocket's first stage (s).

About eight minutes after liftoff, the reusable rocket's two side boosters landed back on ground near the launch center, showed SpaceX's live broadcast.

The satellite will be deployed approximately 34 minutes after liftoff. SpaceX already has another Falcon Heavy launch planned for June, a US Air Force mission called STP-2 that consists of dozens of small satellites. SpaceX is expected to attempt to land all three this week.

Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat announced plans to launch with SpaceX in spring 2015, but at the time hadn't decided between the Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy. A third booster landed on a barge in the ocean, something SpaceX hadn't accomplished with the previous Falcon Heavy launch. But even more spectacularly, all three stages of the rocket successfully returned to Earth just minutes after launch, proving the Flacon Heavy's reliability.

So, the mission was a success, but the Falcon Heavy itself is much more interesting than another satellite in orbit. The company selected Falcon Heavy in September for a mission anticipated in late 2017 or 2018. That launch was the biggest rocket since the Saturn era ended in the 1970s. By launching the used fairings on their own Starlink missions, SpaceX can effectively demonstrate the validity of this to future customers. The rocket can lift nearly 141,000lbs into orbit, which is more than double the Delta IV Heavy, the next closest operational vehicle.

Weather in the Atlantic is now about as good as could be expected, with minimal waves and low winds, excellent conditions for the safe recovery of Falcon Heavy's center core - likely B1055 - and Version 2 payload fairing halves.

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