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It's been made even more powerful since last year's demo flight through upgrades that SpaceX refers to as Block 5, which were applied to the company's smaller Falcon 9 rocket starting in May.

The 23-storey-tall rocket, which previously launched Musk's cherry-red Tesla roadster to space in a 2018 debut test flight, blasted off from Florida's Kennedy Space Centre carrying its first customer payload - a communications satellite called Arabsat. But SpaceX chief Elon Musk said upper-level wind shear was extremely high. It's nearly certainly still in orbit around the sun with a mannequin at the wheel. As in a previous test performance, the twin side boosters eased themselves to touchdown at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station without incident, while, in a SpaceX first, the center core rocket also landed safely - by guiding itself to the deck of an offshore drone vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. But the middle booster missed a seaborne platform it was created to land on, and instead splashed into the ocean.

The Roadster is thought to be on the other side of the sun from us right now, about three-quarters of the way around its first solar orbit, said Jon Giorgini, a senior analyst at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Falcon Heavy's debut flight a year ago attracted massive attention, in part because CEO Elon Musk chose to launch his own luxury Tesla Roadster as the test payload.

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The Roadster could still look much the same as it did for the February 6, 2018, launch, just not as shiny with perhaps some chips and flakes from the extreme temperature swings, according to Giorgini. The boosters for that flight may be recycled from this one. But the preferred method remains NASA's own Space Launch System mega rocket - if it can be ready by then.

It consists of the equivalent of three Falcon 9 rockets combined, tripling its thrust.

Until SpaceX came along, rocket boosters were usually discarded in the ocean after satellite launches.

Since then, the United States military and private clients have signed contracts for Falcon Heavy launches, and NASA has raised the possibility it may use the rocket for its planned missions to the Moon. The company is intent on driving down launch costs by recycling rocket parts.