Speed Reads

All Engines Go

SpaceX launches first Falcon Heavy rocket in 3 years

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, the world's most powerful rocket, blasted toward the stars for the first time in three years on Tuesday. 

The behemoth rocket launched at 9:41 a.m. ET from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Falcon Heavy took to the skies for mission USSF-44, a classified operation aimed at carrying additional satellites into orbit for military use. CNBC reported that USSF-44 is Falcon Heavy's first national security-level mission. 

Following the successful launch, SpaceX — helmed by controversial tech mogul Elon Musk — landed only the Falcon Heavy's side booster rockets. The spacecraft's central booster was left to plunge into the ocean, as U.S. Space Systems Command said it would not have enough fuel left to guide it home. 

Tuesday's launch is one of very few trips that Falcon Heavy has taken since its debut in 2018. Since then, SpaceX has launched just two other Falcon Heavy missions, and the rocket's last flight occurred in June 2019. The majority of SpaceX missions are undertaken by the company's Falcon 9 rocket, a smaller vessel that has gone on nearly 50 missions just this year. 

The small number of Falcon Heavy launches is in part due to a backlog of customer payloads that are not ready to fly, and CNBC noted there are still around 12 missions still planned. 

Both Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 are likely to be replaced by SpaceX's deep-space launch vehicle, Starship, which is scheduled to have its first orbital test flight later this year.