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SpaceX Launches Falcon Heavy Rocket From Florida, Its ‘Most Difficult’ Ever

Dana Hull
SpaceX Launches Falcon Heavy Rocket From Florida, Its ‘Most Difficult’ Ever

(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. launched its Falcon Heavy rocket for the U.S. military early Tuesday in a spectacular night time liftoff that Musk described as the company’s toughest yet.

The rocket and payload rumbled aloft at 2:30 a.m. local time from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a three-hour delay. SpaceX then recovered the rocket’s two side boosters -- which flew in April as part of the Arabsat-6A mission -- at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The center core failed to land on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

https://t.co/nqzTRmYihI pic.twitter.com/GEvNn2L7IS

— Bloomberg (@business) June 25, 2019

Falcon Heavy was carrying 24 satellites for the space agency, Department of Defense research labs and other partners. SpaceX fought for the right to compete for Air Force launches, and Tuesday’s liftoff marks a huge milestone for the company’s relationship with the U.S. military.

“It’s the first multi-mission, multi-payload deployment for the Falcon Heavy and that’s really exciting for everybody,” Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of the Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space Command, said in a statement before the launch.

The mission, known as STP-2, was to place the 24 spacecraft in three different orbits. The payload includes an Air Force Research Laboratory Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX) satellite; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-sponsored Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate-2 (COSMIC-2) and four NASA experiments, according to SpaceX’s website. The final deployment was scheduled to take place more than 3 1/2 hours after the launch. Shortly before 3 a.m. local time, SpaceX’s Twitter feed began confirming deployment of the first satellites.

https://t.co/ywGmMWnOj9 pic.twitter.com/G1gjpUbT3j

— Bloomberg (@business) June 25, 2019

SpaceX set a company record last year with 21 launches for customers. Last month, the Hawthorne, California-based company sent up the first batch of its own satellites, a key step toward creating a space-based constellation that beams broadband to under-served areas across the globe.

Much of the focus in 2019 has been on the first flight with humans on board. SpaceX and Boeing Co. have contracts with NASA to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew program.

SpaceX completed the Demo-1 flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft in March without humans on board. But in late April, the capsule was engulfed in flames and destroyed during a test, a mishap that probably will push back the commercial crew schedule. NASA and SpaceX are reevaluating target test dates.

(Updates with details of liftoff in the second paragraph.)

--With assistance from Tony Capaccio.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dana Hull in San Francisco at dhull12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Trudell at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net, Melinda Grenier, Angus Whitley

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