SpaceX carries out first commercial launch

14 April, 2019, 17:14 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • The Falcon Heavy central core booster lands on a drone ship stationed hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic Ocean

The SpaceX launch blasted off on Thursday with the Falcon Heavy carrying a 6,000kg Saudi Arabian communications satellite into orbit.

The second flight of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket saw all three first stage cores land - either at Cape Canaveral's Landing Zones 1 and 2 or out in the Atlantic on the "Of Course I Still Love You" ASDS.

SpaceX has two operational rockets: the Falcon 9, which with 21 launches in 2018 dominates the U.S. market, and the Falcon Heavy, which as its name suggests is created to lift much heavier payloads into more distant orbits. The vehicle, which was carrying a space-suited mannequin nicknamed Starman, was vaulted into outer space and is expected to orbit the sun for the foreseeable future. SpaceX engineers accomplished this secondary goal in spectacular fashion today, landing the two side boosters at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Arabsat-6A is a large satellite, weighing 6,460-kilograms.

The US Air Force tapped SpaceX in 2018 to launch for $130 million a classified military satellite, and in February added three more missions in a $297 million contract.

But everything went exceedingly well, with SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Southern California cheering at every launch milestone, especially the three touchdowns. SpaceX boss Elon Musk tweeted "The Falcons have landed".

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This was also the first commercial launch for the Falcon Heavy.

During Falcon Heavy's maiden flight in 2018, its two booster cores made synchronized landings side-by-side in Florida.

A SpaceX rocket launched the 16-foot-tall capsule from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida last Saturday. Thursday's launch marks the first time a Block 5 booster was used for the big rocket.

After a six-day mission to the International Space Station, Crew Dragon detached at about 2:30 a.m EST and sped back to earth, reaching hypersonic speeds before an 8:45 a.m. EST splash-down about 200 miles off the Florida coast. That launch was the biggest rocket since the Saturn era ended in the 1970s.

SpaceX will soon be preparing for a different kind of mission. And with a sticker price of $90 million, it is also about a third of the price of its closest competitor, United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy.

Weather in the Atlantic is now about as good as could be expected, with minimal waves and low winds, excellent conditions for the safe recovery of Falcon Heavy's center core - likely B1055 - and Version 2 payload fairing halves.

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