For the first time, SpaceX launched a communications satellite on its Falcon Heavy rocket Thursday, opening the door for future commercial and military payloads.
The launch of the Arabsat-6A satellite occurred at 6:35 p.m. Eastern time from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About eight minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s two side boosters came back to nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for simultaneous side-by-side landings.
The center core booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean about two minutes after that. It was the first time the company had landed all three boosters for Falcon Heavy.
The Arabsat-6A satellite deployed from the rocket’s second-stage about 34 minutes after liftoff.
The launch was originally set for Wednesday but was postponed due to high upper-level winds.
This was the first launch of SpaceX’s three-booster rocket since its initial test flight last year, when a Falcon Heavy launched toward Mars a red Tesla Roadster car belonging to company Chief Executive Elon Musk.
During that launch, the rocket’s two side boosters returned to land, but its center core missed a floating sea platform and hit the water at a speed of about 300 mph.
Falcon Heavy is designed to carry much heavier satellites and payloads than can be hoisted by SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon Heavy can lift a little less than 141,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit, compared to the single-stick Falcon 9’s ability to carry up to 50,000 pounds.