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SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket

The Washington Post
February 06. 2018 11:29PM
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket at Florida's Kennedy Space Center ahead of maiden flight. (COURTESY/SPACEX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — SpaceX successfully launched what is now the world’s most powerful rocket Tuesday, a towering behemoth known as the Falcon Heavy that tore through the sky with the thundering force of 18 747 jetliners.

Lifting off from the same launchpad that sent the crew of Apollo 11 to the moon, the rocket sent up a mountain-sized plume of smoke and a rattling roar across Florida’s Space Coast, where thousands gathered to watch. The mission represented the first test of the massive rocket, powered by 27 engines in three boosters that are essentially strapped together.

The maiden flight also marked the first time a privately financed rocket ever attempted to boost a payload out of Earth’s orbit. As a promotional stunt, SpaceX founder Elon Musk loaded the Falcon Heavy with his own cherry red Tesla Roadster carrying a spacesuit-clad mannequin in the driver’s seat. He said he planned to send the convertible, built by another one of his companies, into an orbit that would take it near Mars.

It was a beautiful day for a launch. Clear blue skies. A slight breeze. Warm weather that attracted space fans by the thousands who lined the beaches and causeways in anticipation.

If SpaceX can fly the Falcon Heavy reliably, the rocket could prove useful to the Pentagon for lifting national security satellites, and for NASA’s human exploration goals.

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