SpaceX pulled off its second launch in three days Wednesday, delivering a communications satellite to orbit that will enhance digital TV services across North America.
The preflown rocket booster that lifted the satellite and the upper-stage rocket carrying it outside Earth’s atmosphere blasted off at 3:53 p.m. PDT from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
This was the third successful launch by the Hawthorne-based company using an already flown 16-story-tall booster. Such reusability reduces the cost of space flight, and is key to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to have a fleet of low-cost equipment.
The SES-11 satellite, built by Airbus and operated by Colorado-based EchoStar Corp., will replace old satellite technology.
This is SpaceX’s 15th mission of the year, and the second time since June that it has pulled off bicoastal launches in a three-day period. On Monday, SpaceX launched its fourth West Coast mission of the year from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc.
The company on Wednesday also accomplished its 18th successful landing of a launched rocket booster. The first-stage rocket flipped around when it reached the edge of the atmosphere and made three short burns as it returned to land gently on a robotic barge called an autonomous drone ship named Of Course I Still Love You.
The unique software that allows for these precision landings is being perfected by the company so that its landings and spacecraft deliveries can be accomplished with as little manual guidance as possible, Musk has said.
In addition to its ocean-based rocket landing pads on both coasts, SpaceX has a ground-based landing pad at Cape Canaveral and is building a second one near it to land two boosters and a rocket core simultaneously from its in-development Falcon Heavy rocket.
Falcon Heavy is set to be tested before the end of the year, but Musk has already announced that the company is developing an even larger rocket, called BFR.
A ground-based landing pad near SpaceX’s West Coast launch site has also been built, and the company is in the process of completing final tests and getting regulatory approvals to land there.
“Because SpaceX is such a valued launch partner, the 30th Space Wing is excited to help them work on a few items needed to enable landing a Falcon 9 first stage at SLC-4W,” U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. William Colllette, spokesman for the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, said in a statement. “An environmental assessment, pad modifications and resource protection analysis are among the items needing to be complete before an approval can be given.”
Falcon 9 and EchoStar 105/SES-11 went vertical last night on Pad 39A. pic.twitter.com/WWLoIobQb3
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 11, 2017
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