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SpaceX Pulls Off Impressive Feat in Rocket’s Commercial Debut

By Bloomberg 12 April 2019
Caption
Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Inc. known as SpaceX, speaks at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. Photographer: Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg

Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. launched its massive Falcon Heavy rocket Thursday for Saudi Arabia’s Arabsat, the rocket’s first mission for a paying customer.

Falcon Heavy rumbled aloft at 6:35 p.m. local time from NASA’s Kennedy Space Station in Florida. SpaceX then recovered all three of the boosters back on Earth, achieving a feat it wasn’t able to pull off in the rocket’s demonstration flight last year. The two side boosters simultaneously returned to land and the center core touched down on a drone ship hundreds of nautical miles out in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The Falcons have landed,” Musk tweeted.

SpaceX’s mission was to deploy Arabsat-6A, a high-capacity telecommunications satellite that will deliver television, radio, Internet and mobile communications to customers in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, according to a press kit.

Read more: SpaceX Readies First Falcon Heavy Launch for Paying Customer

SpaceX set a company record last year with 21 launches for customers. Much of the focus this year is 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 its Demo-1 flight for the program in March. The next key steps are an in-flight abort test, followed by the first flight with two astronauts. DM

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