SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful operational rocket in the world today, on Tuesday for the first time since 2019. The machine took off from a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (USA).
Minutes later, the rocket’s two boosters returned to land on Earth. The central floor will not be restored. The Falcon Heavy first flew in a test in 2018 with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s Tesla. The second flight took place in June 2019 and no other had been organized since, until Tuesday.
64 tons of payload on board
SpaceX currently has two operational rockets. The first is the Falcon 9, which is mainly used to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) or launch Starlink network satellites. The other is the Falcon Heavy, which can launch much heavier payloads or to more distant orbits.
The Falcon Heavy can transport up to 64 tonnes into Earth orbit. NASA has specifically chosen this rocket to send certain components of its future space station into orbit around the Moon. At its base in Texas, SpaceX is developing Starship, another rocket consisting of a spacecraft mounted on a first stage, called Super Heavy.
Falcon Heavy soon dethroned by SLS?
This machine has never flown in its complete configuration. Only the ship made suborbital test flights, several of which ended in impressive explosions. Starship was chosen by NASA to land its astronauts on the Moon during the Artemis 3 mission, no earlier than 2025.
NASA will first take its astronauts to lunar orbit itself thanks to its own heavy launch vehicle, the SLS, which has been in development for more than a decade. The first lift of the SLS, which was supposed to be the most powerful rocket in the world, was twice canceled at the last minute this summer. Another attempt at this unmanned test flight is scheduled for November 14.