SpaceX Falcon Heavy
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy lifts off Feb. 6 on its successful inaugural mission. Credit: SpaceX

ORLANDO, Florida — A rare combination of politicians, space advocates and even competitors lauded SpaceX for its successful inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy Feb. 6.

Among those congratulating the company for the test flight of the heavy-lift rocket was President Donald Trump. In a tweet late Feb. 6, he congratulated SpaceX and its chief executive, Elon Musk. “This achievement, along with @NASA’s commercial and international partners, continues to show American ingenuity at its best!” he stated.

Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council that the administration reestablished last year, also praised the launch. “It demonstrates America’s unparalleled space leadership as the Trump Admin & the National Space Council seek to transform our space policy, seize 21st century opportunities & unleash the infinite potential of the cosmos for the American people,” he tweeted.

Pence also announced that he would convene the next formal meeting of the National Space Council later this month at the Kennedy Space Center. That meeting, which sources say is scheduled for Feb. 21, will be the second public meeting of the council, after its inaugural meeting in October at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington.

Musk, in separate tweets, thanked both Trump and Pence. There was no evidence of any animus between Musk and the administration after Musk resigned from administration advisory boards he was serving on in June when Trump announced plans for the United States to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) discussed the launch in a brief speech on the Senate floor shortly after the launch. “The test launch of the Falcon Heavy is a spectacular demonstration of the comeback of Florida’s space coast and of the U.S. commercial launch sector, which is succeeding in a big way,” he said.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, offered his own congratulations in a tweet, also thanking NASA and the 45th Space Wing, which operates the Eastern Range. Referring to the spacesuit-clad mannequin placed in the Tesla Roadster sports car launched on the Falcon 9, Raymond said, “If #Starman gets back to Earth, he’s got a job with @AFSpace!”

Industry organizations offered congratulations as well. “Today’s successful Falcon Heavy launch represents a momentous milestone for SpaceX and the commercial space industry, as the first heavy lift launch vehicle developed and launched with fully private funding,” Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said in a Feb. 6 statement. “It serves as another example of how U.S. commercial companies continue to drive innovation and American leadership in space.”

The prospect of using the Falcon Heavy to support missions to Mars – something SpaceX is not pursuring in favor of the larger BFR reusable launch vehicle – won praise from Robert Zubrin, president of The Mars Society.

“Seven years ago, the Augustine Commission said that NASA’s moon program had to be cancelled, because the development of the necessary heavy lift booster would take 12 years and $36 billion,” he said in a statement. “SpaceX has now done that, on its own dime, in half the time and a twentieth of the cost.”

“This is a revolution. The naysayers have been completely refuted,” he added.

Even executive of competing aerospace companies hailed the launch. “SpaceX’s successful launch today has pushed our industry to go further faster,” Boeing said in a statement. “Boeing will soon launch our own new rocket intended to take humans to Mars and beyond. Congratulations @SpaceX for your contribution to help innovate, compete, and explore.”

Some executives personally congratulated SpaceX and Musk. “Congratulations @elonmusk @SpaceX,” tweeted Tory Bruno, president and chief executive of United Launch Alliance.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, offered his own succinct praise: “Woohoo!”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...