SpaceX will try to land two of the first-stage boosters back at Cape Canaveral and the core booster on an ocean platform.
"What an incredible day", a SpaceX flight commentator exclaimed.
Falcon Heavy has already been chosen for a few contracts, including a $130 million contract to launch an Air Force satellite that was awarded just four months after its inaugural flight in February 2018. The upper level wind shear was unacceptable, and with a poor forecast, it just didn't make sense to load liquid hydrogen and oxygen on the rocket.
But everything went exceedingly well, with SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Southern California cheering at every launch milestone, especially the three touchdowns.
"Three for three boosters today", a SpaceX webcast commentator said. "From our iconic launch pads at @NASAKennedy, we will continue to support the growing commercial space economy", NASA tweeted. Last year's test flight put a sports auto - Musk's own Tesla - convertible into space.
In Falcon Heavy's first launch, in February 2018, a dummy dubbed Starman was placed behind the wheel of Musk's roadster, which is now orbiting the Sun somewhere between Earth and Mars. When Arabsat announced the contracts in 2015, it said at the time that it planned to launch the Arabsat 6A satellite aboard Falcon Heavy. The boosters for that flight may be recycled from this one.
The Falcon Heavy differs from the Falcon 9 rocket. But the preferred method remains NASA's own Space Launch System mega rocket - if it can be ready by then. All three of the rocket's boosters safely landed on Earth; the side boosters for this launch hadn't previously been used.
The YouTube window below will go live shortly before the launch window opens, assuming SpaceX doesn't push it back at the last minute. The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of those single rockets strapped together.
Introducing a new ultra-powerful rocket has allowed SpaceX to compete directly with arch rival United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, for lucrative government contracts that require heavy-lift launch vehicles. The company is intent on driving down launch costs by recycling rocket parts.