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SpaceX Launches Falcon Heavy

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SpaceX Tuesday launched Falcon Heavy rocket, the world's most powerful lift vehicle, carrying two dozen satellites for the US Air Force's Space Test Program-2, or STP-2.

In the most ambitious of the three launches, Falcon Heavy this time will place 24 satellites into orbit around Earth for the US Defense Department, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, military research laboratories, and universities.

One of the payloads contain the ashes of 152 dead people.

Elon Musk, who owns the American aerospace company Spacex, said the latest mission, also known as Space Test Program-2, was the "most difficult launch ever."

The mega-rocket lifted off on schedule from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 2:30 a.m. EDT.

The side boosters landed successfully at Cape Canaveral's Landing Zone in Florida, while the core booster missed the target and splashed into the sea.

The deployment of satellites into orbit will take hours.

It was the third space flight and the first night launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which made its maiden test flight in February 2018.

It is also a big boost for NASA technology missions. The satellites include four NASA technology and science payloads that will study non-toxic spacecraft fuel, deep space navigation, "bubbles" in the electrically-charged layers of Earth's upper atmosphere, and radiation protection for satellites.

The missions will aid in smarter spacecraft design and benefit NASA's Moon to Mars exploration plans by providing greater insight into the effects of radiation in space and testing an atomic clock that could change how spacecraft navigate.

With launch and deployments complete, the missions will start to power on, communicate with Earth and collect data. They each will operate for about a year, providing enough time to mature the technologies and collect valuable science data.

Falcon Heavy can lift the equivalent of a fully loaded 737 jetliner - complete with passengers, luggage and fuel - to orbit, according to data on SpaceX website.

Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit than Falcon Heavy.

"This launch was a true partnership across government and industry, and it marked an incredible first for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate.

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