SpaceX successfully launched a triple-booster Falcon Heavy from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:04 p.m. ET on Friday, July 28.
The mission deployed the 9-metric-ton Jupiter 3 communications satellite for Maryland-based Hughes Network Systems. It’s the heaviest commercial communications satellite ever built and when fully deployed approaches the wingspan of a commercial airliner.
The launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy, comprises three Falcon 9 boosters and is SpaceX’s most powerful operational rocket, with Friday’s flight only its seventh to date since the rocket’s debut mission in 2018.
SpaceX live streamed the entire mission, including the launch, the return of the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters, and the satellite deployment.
Below you can see the Falcon Heavy as it blasted to orbit, lighting up the night sky.
Less than seven minutes after launch, the two side boosters returned to base for an upright landing. The clip below shows a rocket’s-eye view of the final stages of the homecoming.
On Sunday, SpaceX released another clip showing an alternative view of the boosters touching down.
Finally, SpaceX shared footage of the deployment of the massive Jupiter 3 satellite. The satellite will expand the reach of the HughesNet satellite internet service to nearly 80% of the Americas and increase broadband speeds, among other benefits.
SpaceX also posted some spectacular images showing the Falcon Heavy’s launch and also the landing of one of its side boosters.
The Falcon Heavy packs more than 5 million pounds of thrust at launch, making it about three times more power than SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. While impressive, the Heavy is no match for NASA’s new SLS rocket, which creates around 8.8 million pounds of thrust at launch, nor SpaceX’s in-development Super Heavy, which exhibits 17 million pounds of thrust when it leaves the launchpad.
The Super Heavy has launched only once to date, but the test mission, in April, ended in explosive fashion after an anomaly a few minutes after liftoff forced mission operators to self-destruct the vehicle in midair.