Watch: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket Launches For First Time Since 2019
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on February 6, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time since 2019, carrying two classified satellites into orbit.

The mission, called USSF-44, was operated on behalf of the U.S. Space Force, launching Tuesday morning from Florida’s Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 9:41 a.m.

Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters landed at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, according to SpaceX. The booster landings marked the 150th and 151st recovery of the orbital class rockets.

Officials issued an advisory notice on Monday, warning locals about sonic booms.

“Please be advised, tomorrow morning’s launch will be followed by a double sonic boom. This will occur shortly after launch, as the boosters land on landing zone 1 and landing zone 2 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station,” Space Launch Delta 45, the official account of Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station tweeted.

The Falcon Heavy’s cargo offered little detail due to the classified nature of the mission. It included a spacecraft called USSF-44, as well as a small satellite called Tetra-1.

The Tetra-1 was built for the Space Force by Boeing subsidiary Millennium Space Systems. The Falcon Heavy rocket’s mission may also include some smaller cubesats.

The USSF-44 mission is just the fourth launch for the Falcon Heavy and its first since June 2019. The delay between its missions is largely blamed on hold-ups with mission cargo.

For example, the Tetra-1 was designed for delivery in 2020, but the Space Force delayed the completion of the project for two years until its current mission.

The Falcon Heavy is noted as the most powerful operational rocket in the world. It has the capability of carrying up to 64 metric tons (141,000 pounds) per mission, more than twice the payload of the next largest rocket.

“Falcon Heavy is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft,” according to SpaceX.

The Falcon Heavy’s status as the world’s most powerful may soon be surpassed. The NASA Space Launch System (SLS) designed to launch the Artemis 1 moon mission includes four RS-25 engines that will surpass the top power of the SpaceX rocket.

“The potential use of SLS for science will further enhance the synergy between scientific exploration and human exploration,” John Grunsfeld, astronaut and former associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. “SLS has the promise of enabling transformational science in our exploration of the solar system and cosmos.”

SpaceX is also developing a new rocket called Starship that is expected to be the world’s most powerful upon successful launch. The Elon Musk-led company anticipates its first test flight in orbit could occur before the end of the year.

View the full video of the liftoff’s broadcast below:

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