Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Tuesday launched the first Falcon Heavy mission in over three years, a towering rocket that is the most robust in operation.
SpaceX’s rocket is taking charge of the classified USSF-44 mission for the U.S. Space Force, which is also the first operational national security mission for Falcon Heavy. Its most recent previous launch was the Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission in June 2019, which carried experimental satellites on a demonstration flight for the Pentagon.
The mission took off at 9:41 a.m. ET from a launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
While Falcon Heavy’s base is reusable, the firm landed just the side pair of the three rocket boosters – with the central core dropping into the ocean like traditional rockets do, to meet the Space Force’s high-performance requirement for this mission.
The hiatus in Falcon Heavy launches — the company has completed three since the rocket’s debut in February 2018 — is primarily due to customers’ readiness for its schedule.