SpaceX kicked off the second half of its 2018 launch schedule early Sunday with the successful delivery of a Canadian telecommunications satellite to orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — already the company’s 13th launch of the year.
The mission was the first of two planned in less than a month for Ottawa-based Telesat, and potentially the first of four SpaceX could fly during the same period from the Eastern and Western ranges, with the next targeted for Wednesday morning from California.
At 1:50 a.m. Sunday, July 22, a 230-foot Falcon 9 rocket fired nine Merlin main engines to rumble from Launch Complex 40 on time at the opening of a four-hour window.
Less than 33 minutes later, after two burns by the rocket’s upper stage, the more than 15,500-pound Telstar 19 Vantage satellite was released on its way to an orbit high over the equator.
Earlier, about eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster dropped to a tail-first landing on legs on the deck of a SpaceX ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
[Launch schedule: Upcoming Florida rocket launches and landings]
The booster — the 26th SpaceX has landed — should return to Port Canaveral within three or four days.
Sunday’s mission opened a new phase in SpaceX’s push to fly reusable rockets again and again.
It was the second flight by the latest and final version of the Falcon 9, which SpaceX calls Block 5.
Company CEO Elon Musk expects the upgraded booster to be able to fly at least 10 times with minimal refurbishment between missions. The previous version, Block 4, was limited to two flights.
The new booster launched for the first time in May, and was followed by three re-flights of older-model rockets that are no longer available.
Sunday’s flight marked the start of an era expected to feature the same rockets for years to come, including the ones tasked with flying astronauts to the International Space Station within a year or so.
Falcon 9 rockets already launch unmanned cargo missions to the orbiting laboratory for NASA.
From a perch 22,300 miles up, in an orbital slot at 63 degrees west longitude, the Telstar 19 Vantage satellite, built by California-based SSL, will provide high-throughput broadcast and Internet services from Brazil to the northernmost regions of Canada.
“Telstar 19 Vantage will also be able to provide Internet connectivity to those in rural areas and in remote areas, and even coverage over the north Atlantic Ocean, which is super-important when it comes to providing Internet access for commercial airlines and even cruise ships,” SpaceX engineer Brian Mahlstedt said during the company’s launch webcast. “So in addition to being able to kick back and enjoy an in-flight move or check your email from 35,000 feet, the aircraft crews and the maintenance teams are also able to benefit from this in-flight connectivity.”
A sister spacecraft, Telstar 18 Vantage, is targeting launch on a Falcon 9 next month and will serve customers in Asia.
Up next for SpaceX is a launch of 10 Iridium Communications satellites Wednesday morning from California, followed as soon as Aug. 2 by a Cape launch of a Indonesian communications satellite.
On Aug. 6, United Launch Alliance aims to launch NASA’s Parker Solar Probe from Launch Complex 37 aboard its most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy.
Contact Dean at 321-242-3668 or firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow on Twitter at @flatoday_jdean and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SpaceTeamGo.
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