Elon Musk’s rocket company launches ‘most difficult’ mission to date

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful launch vehicle in the world, roared into the sky overnight for what CEO Elon Musk called the “most difficult launch” his rocket company has ever attempted.

Lift off occurred at 2:30 am ET Tuesday from a launch pad in Florida. The rocket carried an eclectic batch of 24 experimental satellites into space. Getting the devices to their intended orbits was expected to take hours and require some complicated maneuvering.

SpaceX’s customer for this mission, dubbed STP-2, is the US Department of Defense, a key customer that commercial companies such as SpaceX rely on for lucrative launch contracts. That is to say, SpaceX wanted this mission to go off without a hitch — and the primary mission, to safely deliver the rocket’s payload into space, appeared to go as planned.

The Falcon Heavy was slated to travel to three different drop off points in orbit. Officials began confirming successful deployments of some of the satellites destined for lower orbits shortly after launch.

The satellites

This mission was coordinated by the Defense Department, but the satellites that flew atop Falcon Heavy came from a range of agencies and organizations, including NASA, military research laboratories, and universities.

They included a satellite that will test new telescope technologies, and one that hosts a futuristic atomic clock. Another is a science nerd’s dream — a solar sail project that has been centuries in the making. It’s funded by The Planetary Society, a nonprofit headed by Bill Nye (the