Friday, 19 April, 2019

SpaceX completes first commercial launch to deploy Saudi satellite

Falcon Heavy launch delayed again, now targeted for Thursday evening SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches Arabsat-6A as its first commercial payload
Sandy Nunez | 14 April, 2019, 20:13

The Falcon Heavy is touted as the world's most powerful rocket "by a factor of two and will only be succeeded by NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) when completed".

It thundered into the sky with a communication satellite called Arabsat, the rocket's first paying customer. It's been over a year since SpaceX sent Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster to space.

The Falcon 9 Heavy lifting off from the historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre. Eight minutes after takeoff, SpaceX landed two of the first-stage boosters side-by-side back at the Florida site, while the core booster landed two minutes later on an ocean platform offshore, Fox News noted.

The Arabsat 6A is a modern communications satellite developed by Lockheed Martin for Arabsat, an organisation founded by the Arab League in 1976 to provide telecommunications services to the region.

When the Falcon boosters return, the two side boosters descend together, side-by-side - coming back to their own landing zones as if you had been watching the flight on rewind.

In its response, Russia's rocket and space corporation energia had announced its plans to build a super-heavy-lift launch vehicle with help of existing components in 2016.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk warned in advance things might go wrong, given the upgraded version of the rocket with unproven changes.

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Until SpaceX came along, rocket boosters were usually discarded in the ocean after satellite launches.

This is Falcon Heavy's second launch. The red Roadster - with a mannequin at the wheel - remains in a solar orbit stretching just past Mars.

Those on the ground likely viewed the mission by the sound it generated.

The U.S. 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.

Regardless, prior to December 2018, B1032 was the first failed SpaceX landing after dozens of successful attempts. The first retrieval didn't go so well for the poor old core booster, which missed the landing and plunged into the ocean after delivering the Roadster to orbit in February previous year.

The launch systems are aimed at ending United States reliance on Russian Soyuz rockets for $80 million-per-seat rides to the $100 billion orbital research laboratory, which flies about 250 miles above the earth.