"The Falcons have landed" Musk wrote on Twitter, inaugurating the first successful recovery of all three rocket boosters, which will be refurbished and re-fly in another Falcon Heavy mission this summer to carry a swarm of military and science satellites for the Air Force.
Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed two of the first-stage boosters back at Cape Canaveral, side by side, just like it did for the rocket's debut previous year. But the middle booster missed a seaborne platform it was created to land on, and instead splashed into the ocean.
"What an unbelievable day", a SpaceX flight commentator exclaimed. Falcon Heavy only has five missions on its manifest so far.
Nearby beaches and other prime viewing spots were packed with tourists and locals eager to catch not just the launch but the rare and dramatic return of twin boosters, accompanied by sonic booms. With a combination of reusability, affordability, and performance unlikely to be matched for a minimum of 2+ years, SpaceX and its Falcon Heavy rocket have the opportunity to create an entirely new market in the coming years. But everything went exceedingly well and the satellite ended up in the proper orbit.
But everything went exceedingly well, with SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Southern California cheering at every launch milestone, especially the three touchdowns. As such, this marks the first commercial mission for SpaceX's powerful rocket.
Back in February 2018, the test payload was SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster with a mannequin nicknamed Starman in the driver's seat.
In Falcon Heavy's first launch, in February 2018, a dummy dubbed Starman was placed behind the wheel of Musk's roadster, which is now orbiting the Sun somewhere between Earth and Mars.
The first Falcon Heavy's central core missed its landing at the end of last year's mission, due to the fact that it ran out of ignition fluid before the final engine burn. The boosters for that flight may be recycled from this one.
SpaceX typically launches Falcon 9 rockets. The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of those single rockets strapped together. All three of the rocket's boosters safely landed on Earth; the side boosters for this launch hadn't previously been used.