Florida – The upgraded SpaceX’s Falcon 9 reusable rocket launched Friday the SES-9 commercial satellite into orbit after a string of delays due to high-altitude winds, some technical problems and a wayward boat.
The launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida was perfect, but the firm’s CEO Elon Musk twitted that the rocket landed hard on the drone ship.
Still, this was the first of four Falcon 9 ocean landing attempts that didn’t end up in an explosion. Space X, a company that aims to develop completely reusable rockets, had previously said the success rate for this was slim. “Didn’t expect this one to work (very hot reentry), but next flight has a good chance,” tweeted Musk.
The space exploration company postponed the rocket’s launch for the fourth time last March 2. The backup plan was to set the re-launch for Thursday, but it was then moved to Friday.
The SES-9 satellite, expected to have a 15-year service life, successfully separated from the rocket and headed off towards its final direction as planned as it reached the target altitude of more than 25,000 miles. Falcon 9’s first stage separated from the upper stage about 2.5 minutes after liftoff and then returned to Earth with two engine burns, landing a couple of hundred miles off the Florida coast.
Space X attempted to land the rocket’s first stage on one of the firm’s two autonomous spaceport drone ships, which is called “Of Course I Still Love You”. Falcon 9 approached the Atlantic Ocean platform and then cut off right before the boost hit the ship’s deck.
Among other communication services, the commercial satellite is designed to offer direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting from Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia, providing high definition video and Internet service.
The previous landing attempts
On three previous occasions that took place in January and April 2015 and earlier this year, Falcon 9’s booster toppled over on the drone ship and exploded while trying an ocean landing.
SpaceX landed last December a rocket first stage (the most powerful part which helps escape the planet’s gravity) at the Florida station, marking the first successful landing on terra firma during an orbital launch.
Source: Washington Post