Jason DavisFeb 06, 2018

Falcon Heavy launches successfully!

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched on its maiden test flight Tuesday. Throughout the day, I updated this story as events unfolded. Scroll on for a recap, starting in the morning and ending with the final burn toward Mars.

11:15 a.m. EST

Hello from Kennedy Space Center! Today, SpaceX will attempt to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket on a demo flight. If you need to brush up on the flight, here are our previous articles:

Today's launch window opens at 1:30 p.m. EST. A SpaceX representative told us the live webcast will begin around 1:10 p.m. Here's the link for that, and here's a timeline of events, straight from the SpaceX press kit:

Falcon Heavy demo timeline of events
Falcon Heavy demo timeline of events Image: SpaceX

And here's a quick shot from the press site:

Falcon Heavy before launch
Falcon Heavy before launch Image: Jason Davis / The Planetary Society

12:15 p.m. EST

The launch time has slipped to 2:20 p.m. EST due to upper-level winds. Today's launch window extends through 4:00 p.m. EST, according to SpaceX's press kit.

Elon Musk tweeted a diagram of today's launch and landing sequence. Here it is:

Falcon Heavy launch and landing sequence
Falcon Heavy launch and landing sequence Image: SpaceX

1:45 p.m. EST

The upper-level winds at Cape Canaveral continue to be a problem, but controllers have set a launch time of 3:45 p.m. EST. 

2:00 p.m. EST

We're pushing to 3:45 p.m. Stay tuned.

3:25 p.m. EST

SpaceX's webcast should be going live now. We've embedded the YouTube player here:

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4:15 p.m. EST

SUCCESS! The Falcon Heavy's second stage and Tesla payload are now in Earth orbit. Liftoff occurred at 3:45 p.m. EST. Both of the Falcon Heavy side boosters successfully returned to Cape Canaveral for upright landings. The fate of the center core, which was supposed to land on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, is unclear. A flight controller said "we lost the center core" on the launch feed, but SpaceX has yet to clarify whether that meant the signal dropped, or if the booster crashed. 

The second stage is on a six-hour coast before it re-lighting to propel the Tesla on to Mars.

In any case, it's safe to call the test flight a success. Congrats, SpaceX!

Falcon Heavy liftoff
Falcon Heavy liftoff SpaceX's Falcon Heavy lifts off from Kennedy Space Center pad 39A on its inaugural test flight.Image: Jason Davis / The Planetary Society
Double booster landing
Double booster landing The Falcon Heavy core stage boosters return to Cape Canaveral for landing during the inaugural test flight.Image: SpaceX
Inbound boosters
Inbound boosters The Falcon Heavy's side boosters fall to Earth for upright landings during the vehicle's test flight.Image: Jason Davis / The Planetary Society

4:45 p.m. EST

Live views of the Starman, riding in the Tesla, orbiting Earth:

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5:15 p.m. EST

An image of Starman over Australia:

Starman over Australia
Starman over Australia SpaceX's "Starman" riding in Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster following the SpaceX Falcon Heavy test flight.Image: SpaceX

8:00 p.m. EST 

Elon Musk held a press conference this evening with reporters at Kennedy Space Center:

Elon Musk at Falcon Heavy press conference
Elon Musk at Falcon Heavy press conference Elon Musk watches a video montage of the first successful Falcon Heavy test flight.Image: Jason Davis / The Planetary Society

Here's a Twitter thread recapping the highlights (I was wrong about the live stream, by the way; ABC had one):

And a clarification on the fate of the center core:

And the mission patch!

9:00 p.m. EST (final update)

After a six-hour coast, the upper stage re-lit its engine to kick out of Earth orbit and on to Mars. 

As an added bonus, the final burn occured over SpaceX headquarters in Southern California. It was visible in other regions of the southwest, too: The MMT Observatory in Arizona captured this view with their all-sky camera: