SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket Launches First Paid Mission, Lands All Three Boosters For the First Time

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket has successfully launched its first-ever mission for a paying customer. It was also the first time the aerospace company managed to land all three rocket boosters after launch. CNN reports: The rocket took off Thursday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida just after 6 pm ET. It delivered a pricey communications satellite into orbit for Saudi Arabia-based firm Arabsat. For the first time ever, all three Falcon Heavy rocket boosters returned to Earth after launch: The two side-boosters landed simultaneously on ground pads in Florida, while the center core landed on a remote-controlled platform in the ocean a short time later. Reusable hardware is part of Falcon Heavy’s appeal. The boosters are guided back to Earth so they can be refurbished and used again. SpaceX says it can drastically reduce the cost of spaceflight.

The Arabsat mission is evidence that some satellite operators will opt for a larger rocket anyway: Arabsat 6A was small enough to fit onto a Falcon 9 rocket. But using the larger rocket allows the company to put the satellite deeper into space, which means the satellite won’t need to waste as much of its own precious fuel maneuvering to its intended position. Arabsat 6A will update satellite coverage for Arabsat, which is based in Riyadh and delivers hundreds of television channels and radio stations to homes across the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Lockheed Martin built the satellite, along with a second one, for Arabsat as part of a batch of contracts worth $650 million. When Arabsat announced the contracts in 2015, it said at the time that it planned to launch the Arabsat 6A satellite aboard Falcon Heavy. In related news, SpaceX has won a contract to launch the first-ever experiment in 2022 to deflect an asteroid through a high-speed spacecraft collision. “NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, will ride on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at a cost of $69 million,” reports Florida Today. “It’s expected to launch in June of that year.”

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