California’s SpaceX successfully launched the largest rocket in half a century, sending founder Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla roadster into orbit around the sun.
The Facon Heavy’s 27 engines thundered into life at Cape Canaveral at 12:45 p.m. Pacific Time, delivering 5 million pounds of thrust — as much as eight 747 jetliners.
It is the largest rocket flown since the iconic Saturn 5 moon rockets in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and was launched from the same pad in Florida used by the moon rockets.
After the successful launch, and ignition of the second stage, the three booster rockets that were strapped together at launch returned for landing and reuse. Two boosters successfully landed at Cape Canaveral, but a third ran out of fuel and missed a planned landing on a barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
The flight is seen by many as a confirmation of Musk’s crusade to lower the cost of access to space, and a vindication of the Los Angeles-based company’s estimated $500 million investment in the giant rocket.
In another space first, it is a private company — not a government space program — that developed and flew the largest rocket currently available.
Why the Tesla roadster as payload? Musk said the space industry’s tradition of putting cement blocks on test flights was boring.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: