SpaceX just launched its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time ever, and it was quite the show.
The rocket company — headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk — became the owner of the most powerful operational rocket in the world Tuesday when Falcon Heavy aced its maiden flight.
It all kicked off at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the Falcon Heavy awaited its debut at Launch Pad 39A. That’s the same launch pad that hosted Apollo and Space Shuttle missions back in the heyday of U.S. human spaceflight.
After a series of delays thanks to some high-altitude wind, Falcon Heavy fired up all 27 of its engines and roared toward the sky at about 3:45 pm ET.
Cheers rang out across Florida’s Space Coast as thousands of spectators watched the massive vehicle fly onward.
Two and a half minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s two side boosters detached from the main column and began their careful trip back to Earth.
SpaceX is the only company in the world that’s mastered this move. The goal is to guide the rocket boosters back home so they can be refurbished and reused in future missions, which drags down the price of its launches.
SpaceX also planned to land the Falcon Heavy’s center booster on a droneship out at sea, but the live feed of the platform cut out before the rocket came into view. Musk confirmed at a press conference Tuesday night the rocket made a crash landing.
Nonetheless, the test launch did exactly what SpaceX wanted it to: Send Musk’s Tesla into space.
Musk announced last year that he wanted the dummy payload for the Falcon Heavy’s first test flight to be his own cherry red roadster.
“I kind of like the absurdity of it,” he said at a press conference Tuesday.
The car is headed for orbit around the sun that will, at times, put the car as far away from the sun as Mars.