Space enthusiasts have been celebrating after the most powerful space rocket since the space shuttle system successfully test launched from the US overnight.

The Falcon Heavy, built by privately owned space exploration firm SpaceX, carried a cherry-coloured car, which is now headed towards a virtually unending elliptical solar orbit around Mars.

Shortly before 9pm last night Falcon Heavy lifted off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral - the same pad from where NASA first sent men to the Moon almost five decades ago.

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Through clouds of steam, smoke and ash, and propelled by 27 engines, the 23-storey rocket roared up into blue skies and out into space.

The Falcon Heavy lifts off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral
Crowds await the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket at Cape Kennedy

En route it successfully jettisoned its two recycled side boosters which then flew back down to Earth, before gently landing at Cape Canaveral eight minutes after launch in an extraordinary coordinated touchdown.

Their reuse is one of the factors that made the Falcon Heavy a third of the cost of the world's next most powerful rocket.

The Falcon Heavy's payload, a cherry roadster owned by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, was despatched towards Mars on an elliptical endless solar orbit, with a space-suited mannequin strapped in the seat and David Bowie's Space Oddity playing on the radio. 

The successful launch will open up a new range of opportunities for SpaceX including putting larger satellites in bigger quantities into space, as well as progressing plans to eventually send humans to Mars.

An Assistant Professor at the School of Mechanical and Material Engineering at UCD said the launch of the Falcon Heavy is significant because of its reusable rockets.

Dr David McKeown said this reduces the cost of space travel.