Space X last night launched its Falcon Heavy rocket carrying 24 experimental satellites in what boss Elon Musk said was the “most difficult” launch his firm has attempted.
Lift off took place at around 2.30am local time from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida after a three-hour delay from the original launch time late on Monday.
The six-hour mission, dubbed Space Test Programme 2, is the third for the Falcon Heavy rocket and was commissioned by the US Department of Defence.
Space X is putting satellites into orbit for agencies including Nasa, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and universities, the company said.
Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world “by a factor of two” and can lift nearly 64 metric tonnes into orbit, according to Space X’s website.
The mission requires four separate upper-stage engine burns and three separate orbits to deploy satellites. Space X said it plans to recover the three first-stage core boosters for re-use in other missions.
Earlier this year Elon Musk’s space exploration firm suffered a major setback after an explosion destroyed Crew Dragon, one of its passenger vehicles, during ground testing.
Senior Nasa official Jim Bridenstine warned the explosion would delay the drive to build a US spaceship able to carry astronauts to the International Space Station.