SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket stuns viewers with gorgeous liftoff (photos)

SpaceX's powerful Falcon Heavy rocket launch stunned viewers across Florida's space coast this weekend.

A Falcon Heavy lifted off on Sunday (Jan. 15) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a classified mission for the U.S. Space Force called USSF-67.

The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful SpaceX rocket currently in operation. It features three modified first stages of the Falcon 9 rocket that launches the vast majority of the company's missions. 

Photographers and videographers got great views of the USSF-67 launch from Titusville and other coastal zones near Orlando, capturing the Falcon Heavy rising into a dark sky, as you can see in the tweets below. Viewers were also treated to the Falcon Heavy's two side boosters safely touching down at the nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station eight minutes after launch.

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The primary payload on USSF-67 was a military communications satellite called Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM 2 (CBAS-2). The mission also carried five small satellites aboard a payload adapter called the Long Duration Propulsive ESPA (LDPE)-3A.

USSF-67 was the fifth Falcon Heavy launch for SpaceX, but only the second in recent months. The fourth launch of the vehicle, in November 2022, was another U.S. Space Force flight known as USSF-44. USSF-44 was the first Falcon Heavy mission in more than three years; the delay was primarily due to customer delays in getting payloads ready.

Prior to USSF-44, the other Falcon Heavy launches took place in June 2019, April 2019 and February 2018. The first flight is famous for launching SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk's red Tesla Roadster into orbit around the sun, sporting a mannequin nicknamed Starman in the driver's seat.

The car is still out there in space and will likely keep flying for millions of years before crashing into either Venus or Earth, past orbit-modeling simulations have said.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace