At 3:45 pm EST on February 7, 2018, the most powerful US liquid-fueled rocket to fly since the Saturn V roared off Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with 5.5-million pounds of thrust. Even before the successful test flight, customers were signed up. While the technical feat was spectacular, the "payload" itself grabbed most of the headlines: Musk's own cherry-red Tesla Roadster convertible automobile, with a mannequin in a spacesuit sitting in the driver's seat. Quite what the first BFR will carry as a test payload hasn't been decided, Musk said, but he was happy with the way the Roadster launch went down, er, up. "When I see the rocket lift off, I see, like, 1,000 things that could not work and it's wonderful when they do".
On the eve of the flight, Musk said the company had done all it could to maximize success.
Bezos' private rocketry company is designing and manufacturing 270- and 313-foot variants of the company's planned New Glenn rockets, which will launch no sooner than 2020. "It can do anything you want". Instead, they will likely launch on the BFR, Musk's next generation rocket that he hopes will make humans interplanetary.
A "turbocharged version" of SpaceX's eight-year-old Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy's inaugural voyage was powered by 27 engines and three reusable boosters, The Times reported. The payload on Tuesday's flight, Musk's Tesla roadster, weighs about 2,700 pounds.
"If we are successful in this, it is game over for all other heavy-lift rockets", Musk said.
"It was kind of silly and fun, but silly things are important", he said with a grin.
The next most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, can put about half as much in orbit for four times the price. Most importantly, the FH opens an era of lower launch costs that will enable a wide range of new endeavors in space, including an affordable return to the Moon.
The spacecraft is created to be carried into the upper atmosphere by a specialised plane (rather than a rocket) and dropped at an altitude of about 50,000ft (15,000m), before boosting itself to suborbital space using its own rocket motor.
Given the high stakes and high drama, Tuesday's launch attracted huge crowds not seen since NASA's final space shuttle flight seven years ago. That's more than double the Falcon Heavy's thrust. "SLS launches larger payloads farther in our solar system, faster than ever before possible".
It is the biggest step towards Musk's goal to send missions to the Moon or even Mars in the future.
In 2011, NASA projected an SLS development cost of $18 billion through 2017.
A few miles away at the space center's Exploration Park, a brand new rocket factory bankrolled by another billionaire is set to push the boundaries of that space race.
"There is a part of the commercial market that requires Falcon Heavy", SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told the Los Angeles Times previous year.
Now that SpaceX has sent a vehicle cruising into deep space, you might be wondering: What's next?
Charles Miller, president of the consulting firm NextGen Space, said the Pentagon is in a comfortable position to "sit back and watch" how Falcon Heavy performs in upcoming commercial launches.
The two boosters that landed aren't going to be used, he said, and there were no plans to reuse the one that was lost.
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