SpaceX’s big new rocket has blasted off on its first test flight, carrying a red sports car aiming for an endless road trip past Mars.
The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the Moon.
With lift-off, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the lift-off punch of its closest competitor.
The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Centre, as thousands jammed surrounding beaches, bridges and roads to watch the rocket soar, delayed more than two hours by high wind.
Two of the boosters were recycled and programmed to return for a simultaneous touchdown at Cape Canaveral, while the third, brand new, set its sights on an ocean platform almost 500 kilometres offshore.
It’s carrying Elon Musk’s own car
SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk owns the rocketing Tesla Roadster, which is shooting for a solar orbit that will reach all the way to Mars.
As head of the electric carmaker Tesla, he combined his passions to add a dramatic flair to the Heavy’s long-awaited inaugural flight.
On the eve of the flight, Mr Musk said the company had done all it could to maximise success and he was at peace with whatever happened: success, “one big boom” or some other calamity.
The longer the flight, he noted, the more the company would learn from the heavily instrumented rocket.
Mr Musk has had plenty of experience with rocket accidents, from his original Falcon 1 test flights to his follow-up Falcon 9s, one of which exploded on a nearby pad during a 2016 ignition test.