The private US group SpaceX launched Thursday night from Florida, its first commercial flight, a very powerful rocket called Falcon Heavy, with onboard an Arabsat satellite, the first paying customer of the billionaire company Elon Musk, also boss of the builder Tesla electric car. The rocket, which separated from its firing point at Cape Canaveral (Florida) at 18:36 local time (22H36 GMT), managed to place the Arabsat-6A satellite, which weighs six tons, in geostationary orbit, at 36,000 km from Earth. This operation took place about 34 minutes after take-off.
“Successful deployment of Arabsat-6A in confirmed geostationary orbit – the end of Falcon Heavy’s first commercial mission,” SpaceX announced on Twitter. SpaceX also achieved a second goal, that of recovering the three boosters of the rocket. Two landed on the mainland approximately 8 minutes after take-off and the third on the floating barge in the Atlantic Ocean almost 10 minutes after take-off.
In February 2018, a Falcon Heavy rocket had successfully completed its first flight in a customer-free trial, where it had sent a red Tesla convertible car into space. But the recovery of the launcher on the barge had failed.