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SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off with 24 satellites in the first night launch – National

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – SpaceX launched its hottest rocket with 24 research satellites Tuesday, a mid-of-the-night rideshare with a deep space clock, sun seal, a clean and green rocket fuel test bed and even human ash.

It was the third flight of a Falcon Heavy rocket, but the first was ordered by the military.

The Ministry of Defense's mission, called STP-2 for space test programs, is expected to provide data to certify Falcon Heavy – and reuse boosters – for future national security launches. It marked the military's first turn on a reclaimed rocket.

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Both side priests landed back at Cape Canaveral several minutes after liftoff, just as they did after launch in April. But the new core booster missed a sea platform, not unexpectedly for this particularly difficult mission, SpaceX noted.

NASA joined a rocket site, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Planetary Society and Celestis Inc., which offer space flights.

An astronaut flew at NASA's first space station back in the 1970s, Skylab's Bill Pogue, had some of his ashes aboard, along with over 150 other deceased people. Pogue died in 2014.

Photographers on the roof of the vehicle assembly building capture the launch and rocket boosters landing a space-heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, June 25, 2019.

(AP Photo / John Raoux)

SpaceX said the mission was one of its most challenging launches. The satellites needed to be placed in three different paths, requiring several upper-stage engine failures. It would take several hours to release them all.

Deep Space Atomic Clock by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a technology demo aimed at self-flying spacecraft. Barely the size of a toaster oven is the clock designed to help spacecraft navigate themselves when they are far from the earth. NASA also tested a clean and green alternative to toxic rocket and satellite fuel.

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Planetary society's LightSail crowd-funded spacecraft will try to become the first orbiting spacecraft powered solely by sunlight. It is the third crack in society: The first was lost in a Russian failure in 2005, while the other one had a successful test flight in 2015.

"Hi @ elonmusk et al, thank you for the trip!", Tweeted Bill Nye, CEO of the community.

The Air Force Research Laboratory had onboard space weather samples, while NOAA had six small atmospheric weather forecasting satellites.

Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket used today. Each first-time booster has nine engines, for a total of 27 fires simultaneously at liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The first Falcon Heavy launch was in February 2018. That test flight put SpaceX founder Musk's red Tesla convertible into an orbit that extended past Mars.

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