SpaceX launched a Falcon Heavy rocket carrying two satellites for the U.S. Space Force from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida today (Nov. 1), marking the giant rocket’s return to space after more than three years.
Falcon Heavy, a launch vehicle standing 230 feet tall and powered by three boosters, is the world’s most powerful rocket still flying missions. It was last flown in June 2019 carrying experimental satellites for the Department of Defense.
Today’s military mission, dubbed USSF-44, was originally scheduled for late 2020 but faced multiple delays because the payload was not ready. SpaceX has a backlog of about a dozen Falcon Heavy missions delayed for similar reasons. There are two other Falcon Heavy flights scheduled for this year, one for the Space Force and the other for NASA. But neither payload is ready yet.
Falcon Heavy is capable of carrying three times more weight than SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket and is often used to deliver heavy satellites to the high-altitude geostationary orbit. The rocket is best known for launching a red Tesla Roadster into space in its maiden flight in 2018. The car is still in space, taking a far-flung orbit around the sun.