SpaceX successfully launched its triple-booster Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit on Sunday evening ET.
The Falcon Heavy lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:56 p.m. ET on Sunday, January 15.
The USSF-67 mission deployed payloads to orbit for the U.S. Space Force.
Minutes after leaving the launchpad, the two side boosters returned to Earth, touching down at Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral, just a short distance from the launch site.
The third booster continued on with the second stage and will not be recovered, as planned.
SpaceX livestreamed the early stages of the mission. Here’s the rocket lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk also tweeted a dramatic image of the rocket’s ascent.
Just over two minutes into the flight, the side boosters come away from the core booster to begin their journey back to the ground.
A short while later, the two side boosters made a perfect landing on terra firma, enabling them to be reused for future missions, whether as part of the Falcon Heavy or for single-booster Falcon 9 launches.
SpaceX also shared incredible drone footage of the two boosters touching down.
This was the second launch for the powerful Falcon Heavy since November 2022, and the fifth since its first launch in February 2018.
At launch, the Falcon Heavy uses around 5 million pounds of thrust to carry its payloads to orbit. In terms of power, the Falcon Heavy sits between SpaceX’s dependable Falcon 9 rocket, which features around 1.7 million pounds of thrust at launch, and the under-development Super Heavy, which will pack a colossal 17 million pounds of thrust when it roars skyward for the first time, possibly in the next couple of months.
At the current time, the most powerful operational rocket is NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which launched for the first time in November when it carried the lunar-bound Orion spacecraft to orbit in the Artemis I mission.