The world’s most powerful rocket blasted off from Kennedy Space Center this week in a stunning, historic flight that all but promises to change the face of space exploration.
The rocket, the Falcon Heavy, built by the private company SpaceX, lifted off on a glorious Tuesday afternoon, arcing perfectly over the waters of Cocoa Beach in a resplendent symbol of American technology and power. Minutes after launch, the rocket boosters separated and dropped toward Earth, with the two side boosters landing flawlessly in sync on two landing pads at Cape Canaveral. A misfire on the center booster caused it to miss its landing pad on a drone ship in the Atlantic, the only obvious flaw in what was otherwise a remarkable test for SpaceX and a promising new era in space flight.
The flight gives SpaceX, which has already flown multiple cargo missions to the International Space Station, a firmer foothold in the global launch business, and a higher profile as private industry looks to compete more with NASA in the ever-emerging business of space. The company’s reusable boosters, lower prices and ambitions for deep space have helped stoke new interest in human flight far beyond low-Earth orbit, and reawakened the global spirit for interplanetary travel.