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SpaceX returns to flight, return to Earth with most powerful rocket

The world’s second-most powerful rocket—but its largest partially renewable rocket—blasted off on a secret mission for the US Space Force amid spectacular views through SpaceX company.

The event took place in the twilight hours of Sunday, only the fifth flight of the company’s heavy-life Falcon Heavy rocket (though the second in a few months), with a satellite successfully launched into geosynchronous Earth orbit (meaning it will orbit at the same speed as Earth rotates). Two side-boosters then returned to land on launch pads in tandem.

SpaceX Lands With Military Rocket

According to SpaceX, it was the 163rd and 164th successful landing of an orbital-class rocket. The USSF-67 mission launched a communications satellite for the US military into orbit.

At 5:56 p.m., it lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. ET, with the side boosters returning minutes later to two adjacent Cape Canaveral launch pads.

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which recently completed its first successful flight as part of the space agency’s Artemis-I mission around the Moon, recently dethroned SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy as the world’s most powerful rocket.

The SLS is the largest rocket ever built, surpassing NASA’s iconic Saturn V “Moon rocket,” which was last used in 1973. The SLS is 322 feet tall and has 8.8 million pounds of thrust.

Falcon Heavy is 230 feet tall and has 5 million pounds of thrust. It is made up of three Falcon 9 boosters (only two of which return to Earth) and a second stage. It is, however, the only heavy-lift rocket that is partially reusable.

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Falcon Heavy Rockets

The world’s second-most powerful rocket—but its largest partially renewable rocket—blasted off on a secret mission for the US Space Force amid spectacular views through SpaceX company.

Following the mission on Sunday, the company recovered two of the Falcon Heavy rocket’s first-stage boosters, which are the tall white sticks strapped together to give the rocket more power at liftoff. After burning through the majority of their fuel, the side boosters separated from the center core and reoriented themselves to cut back through the Earth’s atmosphere.

The boosters restarted their engines as they approached the ground, completing a synchronized landing on ground pads near the Florida coastline. It’s a signature move for SpaceX, which routinely recovers and reuses rocket boosters to reduce launch costs.

The company has not yet recovered all three boosters, but it has come close. After an April 2019 mission, the rocket’s two side boosters made a precise, synchronized landing on ground pads, and the rocket’s center booster touched down on a seafaring platform. However, rough waves tipped it over.

SpaceX is in the final stages of preparing for the first orbital launch attempt of its Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket at its experimental facilities in South Texas. Though final approval from federal regulators is still pending, the test flight could take off in the coming weeks.

If it is successful, SpaceX’s Starship will dethrone the SLS as the most powerful rocket in the world.

Both the SLS and the Falcon Heavy are expected to be outpowered by the Starship system. The upcoming Super Heavy booster, which will launch the Starship spacecraft into space, is expected to produce approximately 17 million pounds of thrust.

But it’s not all about competition. The SLS rocket and SpaceX’s Starship are both critical components of NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon’s surface for the first time in more than a half-century.

SpaceX’s vision for the Starship is ambitious: ferrying humans and cargo to Mars in the hopes of one day establishing a permanent human settlement there.

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