IT WAS not the most powerful launch ever seen at the Kennedy Space Centre’s Pad 39A; almost half a century ago the Apollo programme’s mighty Saturn V made use of it. But if the Falcon Heavy that took off from 39A on February 6th could boast only half the thrust of those bygone giants, its successful maiden voyage still proved it the most powerful rocket in the world today, as well as the most technologically advanced.
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, the firm which built the Falcon Heavy, had been frank about the possibility that the launch might fail, possibly spectacularly. The prospect of fireworks helped to entice the biggest crowd of spectators at Cape Canaveral since the heyday of the Space Shuttle, and an audience of half a million to a live webcast.
After a delay caused by strong winds the assembled spectators witnessed a balletic display of technological prowess. Most rockets are one-use wonders, all their components falling into the sea or burning up in the atmosphere once their payloads are in…Continue reading