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SpaceX successfully launches its first Falcon Heavy in 40 months

The Falcon Heavy rocket as seen at an altitude of about 160 meters on Tuesday, climbing above the fog but disappearing into haze.

Enlarge / The Falcon Heavy rocket as seen at an altitude of about 160 meters on Tuesday, climbing above the fog but disappearing into haze. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

A dense fog shrouded much of Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday morning, largely obscuring the liftoff of the most powerful operational rocket in the world.

But the Falcon Heavy took off promptly at 9:41 am ET, climbing steadily above the Florida coast on its way to orbit. A few minutes into the launch, two side-mounted boosters—slightly modified versions of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket—peeled away from the center core of the rocket.

As that center core continued to climb toward orbit, the boosters fell back to Earth, burning a subset of their nine engines twice and making a picture-perfect side-by-side landing just a few kilometers away from where they launched from. SpaceX will now refurbish these side boosters for reuse on the military’s next Falcon Heavy mission, USSF-67, in January. The center core was not recovered.

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