Hawthorne-based SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida Monday evening, carrying 24 satellites of varying purposes into orbit on its third mission as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program-2.
One satellite is a NASA atomic clock, while others are being operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense research laboratories and various universities.
According to multiple media reports, the rocket is also carrying the cremated remains of 152 people whose families paid upward of $5,000 to have up to seven grams of ashes placed onto the spacecraft.
The launch consisted of four upper-stage engine burns, three deployment orbits and a final propulsive passivation maneuver in what SpaceX called one of its most challenging launches.
The 230-feet-tall, 27-engine Falcon Heavy is essentially triple the size of SpaceX’s traditional Falcon 9 rockets. According SpaceX, the liftoff thrust of Falcon Heavy is roughly equivalent to 18 full-powered 747 jetliners.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has called Falcon Heavy “the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two and the highest payload launch vehicle to reach orbit after the Saturn V moon rocket.”
Falcon Heavy’s inaugural test mission last year propelled a cherry-red Tesla roadster with a “Starman” spacesuit propped behind the wheel into space. In April, the rocket array was used to deploy a 13,200-pound Arabsat-6A communications satellite.
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