The Falcon Heavy ended up delivering 24 satellites to a variety of orbits over the course of multiple hours, successfully completing a complicated mission that SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk called the company's toughest ever.
SpaceX has landed and used many of its booster rockets a couple of times, touting their reusability as an effective way to cut the costs of future space travel. It was the third flight of a Falcon Heavy, but the first ordered by the military.
The central core booster, which SpaceX has yet to recover from a Falcon Heavy launch, ultimately missed its mark.
It was the military's first ride on a recycled rocket.
Rocket fairings, which shield satellites during launch but detach after reaching space, are typically left to plummet into a watery grave.
CUNY College of Staten Island's Charles Liu on SpaceX's successful launch and landing of its Falcon 9 rocket. Twelve small "Cubesats" are on board, including one provided by the Planetary Society to test solar sail technology, using the pressure of sunlight for propulsion.
Falcon Heavy Going for First Night Launch on Monday, Carries Human Ashes
It is more precise than the finest watch on earth and could be responsible for changing the way we travel through space. The complete launch process for the STP-2 mission will take around four hours, starting with Monday night at 11:30 p.m.
It transported several new pieces of equipment for NASA, the most interesting being a Deep Space Atomic Clock, which would allow spacecraft to find their way using their own in-built systems. The rocket, which is capable of carrying 63,800 kg worth of payload, will be placing 24 satellites into a low-Earth orbit today.
Lift-off begins from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida during a launch window that opens at 11:30pm EDT Monday (that's Tuesday 25 June 1:30pm AEST for those playing on the Australian East Coast).
The rocket's twin boosters flew back to landing pads at Cape Canaveral, providing a never-before-seen nighttime spectacle, and creating sonic booms in the wee hours of the night.
The US Defence Department mission is expected to provide data to certify the Falcon Heavy - and reused boosters - for future national security launches. Built by students at the Michigan Technological University, Oculus will serve as a target to test techniques for studying satellites from the ground. At that point, the Air Force's Demonstration and Science Experiments - DSX - satellite could be deployed to characterize the space radiation environment and its effects on sensitive electronics. It will also launch from Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center.
The gang also conducted spacewalks during the 204-day mission and performed the first in-space editing of DNA.