Falcon Heavy took off yesterday from Cape Canaveral in Florida and successfully delivered its cargo into orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)
After a successful launch that delivered the Arabsat-6A satellite to its planned orbit, SpaceX also managed to land the three reinforcements of its Falcon Heavy rocket, the first for the private space company. On a previous test flight, SpaceX landed and recovered only the lateral reinforcements. The launch was also the first commercial effort of Falcon Heavy.
Falcon Heavy side reinforcers land on landing zones 1 and 2 pic.twitter.com/nJCCaVHOeo
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 12, 2019
Three for three
After several delays in early April, Falcon Heavy took off at the opening of its launch window on April 11, just after 6:30 p.m. EDT. The takeoff was smooth, with the communications satellite deploying in its geosynchronized transfer orbit planned 34 minutes after launch.
And even before that point, SpaceX was already celebrating the successful landing of the three individual reinforcements of Falcon Heavy. The two lateral thrusters separate in an earlier stage of ascent and land on solid ground 8 minutes after launch. The central core, which flies higher to continue pushing the load into space, landed two minutes later. Because it flies higher and reaches speeds faster than lateral reinforcements, landing is a more complicated task, a SpaceX failed on Falcon Heavy's last test flight in 2018. But this time, the main core landed safely in the dronehip "Of course I still love you." That led Elon Musk to tweet succinctly, "The Falcons have landed."
The side thrusters are already marked for the next Falcon Heavy mission, currently scheduled for June. There is no current plan to reuse the core, but reuse is generally a key tactic for SpaceX to reduce launch costs. So yesterday's successful flight and landing offer humanity a glimpse of what we can expect from the future of space flight.
You can relive the entire launch and landing through the sequence below.