SpaceX successfully launched Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, and it is now on course to reach Mars’ orbit—albeit with a different trajectory than originally planned.

Its launch was delayed by approximately two hours due to ‘upper level wind shear’, before lift-off was achieved at 3:45pm ET (8:45pm GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

SpaceX, the company behind the project, successfully separated its three rocket boosters and returned two of them in a controlled, synchronised landing on parallel launchpads in Cape Canaveral, not far from the Kennedy Space Centre.

However, the third booster—intended to land on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean—was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land. It consequently hit the water at 300 miles per hour about 100m from the drone ship, scattering shrapnel over the deck and destroying two of its engines.

The exact fate of the booster remains unknown, but it is presumed to have sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

It was a small setback in an otherwise successful first flight that sees CEO Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla sports car, atop the Falcon Heavy, on a course to Mars’ orbit.

Musk’s eccentric stamp on the flight continued with a spacesuit-wearing mannequin occupying the driver’s seat, listening to David Bowie’s Space Oddity on repeat, and with ‘Don’t Panic’—from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy—appearing on the dashboard.

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SpaceX has returned images and live stream footage of the unusual payload, after Musk promised ‘epic views’.

A Twitter update from Musk said: “Upper stage restart nominal, apogee raised to 7000km. Will spend five hours getting zapped in Van Allen belts & then attempt final burn for Mars.”

After cruising through space for six hours, Musk tweeted that the third burn was successful, with Mars orbit exceeded as Falcon Heavy continues towards the Asteroid Belt.

The exceeded orbit means that Falcon Heavy has overshot its trajectory, putting the Tesla in an orbit that extends out into the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

How this will impact the overall mission remains unclear.

Musk first announced the Falcon Heavy project in 2011, but has faced many delays over the last seven years. The success of recent landing and rocket tests, however, paved the way for the maiden flight.

The near-perfect success of the mission has big implications for the space industry. For example, the extra thrust offers the capacity to carry heavier payloads—such as bigger satellites—into orbit.

Musk claims Falcon Heavy will cost $90 million per flight, as opposed to NASA’s own heavy rocket that is under development, which would cost closer to $1 billion per flight.

Falcon Heavy’s comparative affordability and partial reusability could see the resurgence of space missions to the moon, and the sending of larger robots to Mars. SpaceX also plans to one day send commercial passengers to space, with two passengers already booked in for future flights.