AP -- After numerous changes due to weather, the launch of SpaceX's big new rocket launch was mostly a success.
The Heavy, which was tested in McGregor, became the world's most powerful rocket in use, with double the liftoff punch. It's equipped with three boosters and 27 engines designed to provide about 5 million pounds of thrust.
To add to the excitement, SpaceX chief Elon Musk put his cherry-red Tesla Roadster on board. He's striving to put the car into a perpetual solar orbit reaching out as far as Mars, the focus of all his rocket efforts as he aims to establish a city there in years to come.
Musk - who also heads up the Tesla electric carmaker - said he wanted to add some dramatic flair by launching his sports car into space. Normally the payloads on test flights include non-valuable items like steel or concrete slabs or mundane experiments.
In the driver's seat of the convertible is "Starman," a dummy in a spacesuit, with one hand on the steering wheel. David Bowie's "Space Oddity" will be playing on the soundtrack at liftoff.
The launch was expected to attract thousands - a crowd not seen since NASA's last space shuttle flight seven years ago. While the shuttles had more liftoff muscle than the Heavy, the all-time leaders in both size and might were NASA's Saturn V rockets, which first carried astronauts to the moon in 1968.
Scores of journalists packed the space center to witness not only the launch, but the return to land of two of the Heavy's three first-stage boosters, strapped side by side by side for takeoff.
Just minutes after liftoff, the two outer boosters - recycled from previous Falcon 9 flights - made vertical landings at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The central core booster continued upward, then also peeled away.
It was supposed to touch down on a floating platform in the Atlantic, just offshore, but there are reports that it was lost.
The Roadster will spend several hours traveling through the highly charged Van Allen radiation belts encircling Earth. That will be a risky time as well, according to Musk, because the fuel necessary for the ignition of the final thruster to send the car on its proper path toward Mars could freeze up, or the oxygen could vaporize. In addition, the car will be zapped repeatedly by radiation.
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