A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. (Xinhua/REUTERS)
The private U.S. space flight company SpaceX on Tuesday launched the world's most powerful operational rocket into space in a much-hyped demonstration mission deemed to have the potential to bring a revolution in the space industry.
The Falcon Heavy blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in the U.S. State of Florida at 3:45 p.m. EST (2145 GMT), carrying something just for fun: a red Tesla Roadster belonging to SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk.
So far, everything has gone as planned, with the rocket's two side boosters landing simultaneously back on ground about eight minutes after liftoff.
Eventually, the rocket's second stage will try to place the Roadster, playing David Bowie's Space Oddity, into a Mars-adjacent orbit.
"We estimate it'll be in that orbit for several hundred million years, maybe even in excess of a billion years," Musk told reporters during a media call.
The tech billionaire has repeatedly played down expectations for the launch, saying that the mission might end in explosion.
"This is a test mission as I said there's so much that can go wrong, so we don't want to set expectations of perfection," he said.
"I would consider it a win if it just clears the pad and doesn't blow the pad to smithereens."
Musk admitted that there's a chance that the rocket's second stage might not make it out of low-Earth orbit.
That's because it will "coast" for six hours through the Van Allen radiation belt, where it may "get whacked pretty hard," he said.