Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon Heavy blasted off Thursday with a high-capacity telecommunications satellite payload, then landed all three boosters safely.
It was the second lift-off for Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket. The launch had to be postponed on Wednesday due to unfavorable winds higher in the atmosphere.
Falcon Heavy’s first flight was a demo flight in February 2018 with its famous dummy payload: A Tesla Inc. TSLA, -2.77% bright-red Roadster and a spacesuit-clad dummy named “Starman,” after the David Bowie song, behind the wheel.
The Roadster, an original model, belonged to Elon Musk’s personal collection. Musk, SpaceX’s founder, is also Tesla’s chief executive.
This time, SpaceX hit three landings after booster separation, with Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters landing not far from its launch area at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The center core landed two minutes later on a platform hundreds of miles off shore in the Atlantic Ocean.
Because this was an upgraded version of the rocket with unproven changes, SpaceX chief Elon Musk cautioned in advance things might go wrong. But everything went exceedingly well and the satellite ended up in the proper orbit. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Southern California cheered every launch milestone and especially the three touchdowns.
“The Falcons have landed,” Musk said in a tweet that included pictures of all three boosters.
NASA offered swift congratulations. “From our iconic launch pads at @NASAKennedy, we will continue to support the growing commercial space economy,” NASA tweeted. Musk replied with three red hearts.
SpaceX accomplished the first droneship landing, after several failed attempts, in April 2016 as the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket returned.
The satellite, Arabsat-6A, was built on a Lockheed Martin Corp. LMT, +2.16% platform. Arabsat-6A will deliver television, radio, Internet, and mobile communications to customers in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, SpaceX said.
SpaceX plans to launch its next Falcon Heavy later this year on a mission for the U.S. Air Force. The boosters for that flight may be recycled from this one.
Associated Press contributed to this report.