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Six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.
In position.
Remember the Falcon Heavy?
SpaceX's megarocket that fired a Tesla up into space in 2018 and its first commercial satellite in early 2019.
Well, it's back.
This time not with one satellite but 24 of them, in what had been dubbed by SpaceX's CEO, Elon Musk, as its most difficult mission ever.
The mission is called Space Test Program-2.
It's the first time Falcon Heavy has launched a payload for the US Air Force, but it may not be the last.
The rocket blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center.
And although this is the rocket's third launch, it's the first with reused rockets.
Specifically the two side boosters, which were used on the previous Falcon launch in early 2019.
Both side boosters made a simultaneous successful landing back at Kennedy Space Center shortly after takeoff.
See it coming towards our two landing pads.
See those landing legs deploy.
And the plan was that the central core would land on a drone ship 770 miles off the coast of Florida, but it slightly missed its mark and landed in the Atlantic Ocean instead.
Pretty good view!
But it's not this complex series of rocket-landing attempts that is why Musk called this the most difficult mission yet.
It was the complexity of the payload and how SpaceX had to deploy it, because the mission involved not only multiple satellites but multiple orbits.
Specifically, three separate orbits, which required four upper-stage engine burns the lasted over six hours.
In total, the collection of satellites brought the cost of this mission to an estimated $750 million.
Which isn't surprising when you see what this rideshare had on board, including a Deep Space digital atomic clock made by NASA for better space-navigation tracking, an experimental propellant developed by the US Air Force that's safer for humans to handle.
And an innovative spacecraft called a LightSail designed by The Planetary Society that's powered by solar rays alone.
But it wasn't just scientific instruments SpaceX launched.
Attached to the same satellite carrying NASA's atomic clock were the cremated remains of 152 people, including late NASA astronaut Bill Pogue.
These were sent up by Celestis Memorial Spaceflights, a company that will launch remains to space starting at nearly $5,000.
In all, the successful mission was a huge win for SpaceX because this puts it a step ahead of its competitors for a coveted government contract to launch some of the government's multimillion- to multibillion-dollar equipment.
SpaceX will have to beat other competing companies like Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance.
But if it wins the contract, it would be a lucrative addition to the Falcon Heavy's already impressive launch manifest.
And could mean that we'll see more launches and landings like this one.
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Watch SpaceX’s ‘Most Difficult Launch Ever’

182 Folder Collection
Liang Chen published on July 2, 2019    Liang Chen translated    Winnie Liao reviewed
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