SpaceX launches first commercial mission of Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy lifted off yesterday from Cape Canaveral in Florida and successfully delivered its cargo into orbit

Falcon Heavy lifted off yesterday from Cape Canaveral in Florida and successfully delivered its cargo into orbit

Unfortunately, all previous attempts had failed and the fairings landed in the ocean.

Musk also indicated that the hardware appeared to be undamaged and will be used again later this year to launch some of SpaceX's Starlink global broadband satellites.

The fairing is a piece of material that's part of the rocket's nosecone, protecting the payload, which can include things like satellites, during launch.

He estimates that each fairing costs approximately $6 million, which equates to about 10 percent of the cost of a Falcon 9 launch.

The ability to retrieve payload fairings is the latest step in SpaceX's creation of rocket systems that are entirely reusable.

The company even constructed a boat with a massive net attached, affectionately called Mr. Steven, to try to recover the fairings.

But the fairing recovery wasn't the only memorable achievement to come out of yesterday's launch.

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At take-off, the Falcon Heavy soared from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, using the same launch pad that shot Apollo astronauts to the Moon 50-years-ago.

As well as having its first commercial payload, it was also the first time the three lower boosters of the rocket returned to Earth successfully. These boosters have been part of the Falcon 9 rocket for nearly a year and offer better thrust, improved landing legs and other features that make retrieval easier. SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker said during a livestream: "T plus 33 seconds into flight, under the power of 5.1 million pounds of thrust, Falcon Heavy is headed to space".

NASA subsequently tweeted: "Congratulations to @SpaceX on today's successful launch and landing of the Falcon Heavy rocket!".

The space company has previously re-used first-stage and second-stage rocket boosters, in addition to one of its previously flown Dragon capsules.

Liftoff with Heavy's new military-certified Falcon 9 engines was crucial in the race with Boeing-Lockheed venture United Launch Alliance and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin as Musk's SpaceX, working to flight-prove its rocket fleet one mission at a time, aims to clinch a third of all US National Security Space missions - coveted military contracts worth billions.

The payload fairings are clam shell-like nose cone halves that protect the craft's payload.

This was followed two minutes later by the core booster landing at sea aboard the company's droneship, Of Course I Still Love You, which was parked at sea 990 km (615 miles) off the coast of Cape Canaveral.

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