SpaceX launches big new rocket on test flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- SpaceX's big new rocket has blasted off on its first test flight, carrying a red sports car on an endless road trip past Mars.

The Falcon Heavy rocket rose Tuesday from the same Florida launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today.

The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center, where thousands gathered to watch the launch which had been delayed by high wind.

Two of the boosters are recycled and programmed to return for another touchdown on land. The third is brand new and has its sights on an ocean platform.

To add to the excitement, SpaceX chief Elon Musk has his cherry-red Tesla Roadster on board. He's striving to put the car into a perpetual solar orbit reaching out as far as Mars, the focus of all his rocket efforts as he aims to establish a city there in years to come.

Musk - who also heads up the Tesla electric carmaker - said he wanted to add some dramatic flair by launching his sports car into space. Normally the payloads on test flights include non-valuable items like steel or concrete slabs or mundane experiments.

In the driver's seat of the convertible is "Starman," a dummy in a spacesuit, with one hand on the steering wheel. David Bowie's "Space Oddity" will be playing on the soundtrack at liftoff.

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The Falcon Heavy launch aims to send its payload on a path to an elliptical Mars orbit.

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