Relive SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch of Psyche asteroid mission with these amazing photos

a large white rocket launches into a cloudy gray sky.
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches NASA's Psyche asteroid mission on Oct. 13, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's first Falcon Heavy mission for NASA did not disappoint.

The Falcon Heavy — the second-most powerful rocket currently in operation, after NASA's Space Launch Systemlaunched the agency's Psyche asteroid mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida this morning (Oct. 13).

It was the eighth liftoff overall for the Heavy and its fourth already in 2023. But the sight of the triple-core rocket climbing into the sky — and coming back down to Earth — was still a dazzling one, as the photos below make clear.

Related: NASA's Psyche asteroid probe on track for October launch after 1-year delay

Psyche lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 13, 2023. (Image credit: Josh Dinner)

Falcon Heavy climbs into the sky on its eighth-ever mission. (Image credit: Josh Dinner/

The 27 Merlin engines of Falcon Heavy's three first-stage boosters together generate about 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The view from a camera aboard the Falcon Heavy showing one of its first-stage boosters separating during the launch of the Psyche asteroid mission. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon Heavy's two side boosters come down for a landing at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station about 8.5 minutes after launch on Oct. 13, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

It was the fourth liftoff and landing for these two side boosters, and they have more action ahead of them: They're scheduled to launch NASA's Europa Clipper mission in 2024, for example. (The central booster that launched Psyche was new, and it will not fly again; it fell into the sea by design after its launch duties were done.) (Image credit: SpaceX)

The single Merlin engine of the Falcon Heavy's upper stage fires high above Earth, carrying Psyche farther into space. (Image credit: SpaceX)

View from the Falcon Heavy's upper stage before the deployment of Psyche. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Psyche deploys from the upper stage of its SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on Oct. 13, 2023.  (Image credit: SpaceX)

Psyche now has a long road ahead of it. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at its namesake, a 173-mile-wide (280 kilometers) metallic object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, in 2029.

The probe will then study the asteroid Psyche up close for about two years. Scientists think the space rock may be the exposed core of an ancient planetary building block, so the mission's observations could shed considerable light on our solar system's early days, the formation of planets and the characteristics of Earth's core.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.