SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch: World's most powerful rocket blasts into space

Elon Musk's projectile is the most powerful rocket since Saturn V and twice as mighty as any competitor

Andrew Griffin@_andrew_griffin
Tuesday 06 February 2018 21:47
SpaceX successfully launches the Falcon Heavy — their most powerful rocket ever

Elon Musk's SpaceX has blasted the most powerful rocket on Earth into space.

The rocket is now easily the most powerful on the planet. And what's more, it managed to come back down to Earth, with each of the three stages landing in different places, ready to be re-used.

Eventually, SpaceX hopes that a version of the same rocket can be used to carry humans to the moon, and perhaps even to Mars. The Falcon Heavy took off from the same Cape Canaveral launchpad that took people to the moon nearly 50 years ago, and is the most powerful rocket seen on Earth since the one that carried them there.

But first the Falcon Heavy rocket dropped off a dummy in a spacesuit inside Elon Musk's Tesla car in space. That will now float between Earth and Mars for as long as a billion years.

Also inside the rocket was a storage device that held work by science fiction author Isaac Asimov, and a plaque featuring the names of 6,000 SpaceX staff who contributed towards the mission.

After dropping off that payload in space, the three boosters and 27 engines that carried it up headed back down to Earth. That is a key part of SpaceX's plan – the company hopes to be able to land and then re-use the rockets, making missions far cheaper than they've ever been before.

Everything appeared to go entirely to plan, as SpaceX employees were heard cheering and applauding as the rocket made its way successfully away from the Earth. Their yelping was even louder than the blasts of David Bowie's Life on Mars, which the company played to celebrate the successful launch of the rocket.

The launch had initially been delayed because of high winds up in the air, and there had been suggestions that it could be cancelled. But eventually those gusts calmed down, and the rocket took off with only 15 minutes left in its launch window.

The Falcon Heavy still isn't the most powerful rocket ever seen – that honour goes to the Saturn V, which carried astronauts up to the moon and was far more popular than SpaceX's effort. But it's twice as powerful as any other rocket currently in operation.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments