The world's most powerful rocket the SpaceX Falcon Heavy has successfully launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, paving the way for complex missions to Jupiter and beyond.

It lifted clear of its pad on Tuesday (6 February) in a launch that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had earlier described as having only a 50-50 chance of success.

Musk says the Falcon Heavy can deliver a maximum payload to low-Earth orbit of 64 tonnes, more than twice the world's next most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy at one third the cost.

He used his old Tesla sports car to test this, with a mannequin strapped inside and the David Bowie song Space Oddity playing.

If the operation goes to plan, the Tesla and its passenger will go on a six-month, 400m km trip to a solar orbit and then on for more than a billion years.

At a lift-off watched by around half a million spectators around Florida, a SpaceX announcer said: "Falcon Heavy heading to space on our test flight, building on the history of Saturn V/Apollo and returning launchpad 39A to interplanetary missions".

Musk hopes the Falcon Heavy will help interplanetary exploration and Nasa return to the moon and eventually landing humans on Mars.

It is also expected to transform commercial spaceflight with this launch costing around $90m, compared with the United Launch Alliance's $435m for its Delta IV Heavy, which is said to have only half the payload.

Musk said: "If we are successful, it's game over for other operators of heavy-lift rockets.

"It's like where one aircraft company has reusable aircraft and all the other aircraft companies had aircraft that were single use, and you'd sort of parachute out at your destination and the plane would crash land somewhere. Crazy at it sounds, that's how the rocket business works."

The Falcon Heavy comprised of three of SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 vehicles strapped together with the lower segments of the rocket falling back to earth. Of the three rocket boosters, only two landed onto parallel launchpads, while the third was unaccounted for.

Jerry Carr, an astronaut on the final mission to Skylab in 1973 told the Guardian: "Things are going the way they should right now.

"I hope SpaceX are successful and can design a spacecraft reliable enough that we can put human beings on it. Mars is the next logical step in our exploration of space."

SpaceX Falcon Heavy
SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from historic launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 6 February. Reuters