Elon Musk took one giant leap to the front of the space industry on Tuesday.
Falcon Heavy became the most powerful commercial rocket in the world after SpaceX successfully completed its first launch of the behemoth from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Musk told reporters after the launch that he was having difficulty comprehending the magnitude of the flight, saying it was surreal for him to see.
"I think this going to encourage other companies and countries," Musk said. "We want a new space race."
The launch was the most ambitious yet for Musk's space company, putting SpaceX at the top of a short list of available heavy lift rockets. Falcon Heavy is both more powerful and capable of lifting more weight than the biggest rockets offered by either United Launch Alliance (a Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture) or Arianespace – at a fraction of the cost.
"This is, in many ways, the most significant launch since the first shuttle launch nearly four decades ago," prominent space investor Dylan Taylor told CNBC.
Standing more than 21 stories tall, Falcon Heavy flew unmanned for its demonstration launch. SpaceX may no longer send astronauts atop Falcon Heavy, as the company previously planned. Musk told reporters on a conference call the day before the launch that development of the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) is "coming along quickly."
If BFR is successful, Musk said that rocket would carry astronauts instead of Falcon Heavy. But that may change again, as Musk noted that delays on BFR would mean the return of putting SpaceX's crewed Dragon capsule back on top of Falcon Heavy.