Published: Fri, February 02, 2018
Science | By

SpaceX rocket survives high-thrust ocean landing

SpaceX rocket survives high-thrust ocean landing

The reusable SpaceX rocket launch sent the satellite into orbit for the Luxembourg government and satellite operator SES.

From an orbit high over the equator, the satellite built by Orbital ATK is created to provide communications services for military and government users from European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member states. While the obvious downsides likely include difficulty maintaining control and increased stresses on the booster, the benefits are also pretty inherent. The GovSat 1 will provide communication services for the Government of Luxembourg. The X- and Ka-band satellite was built by Orbital ATK on the company's new GEOStar-3 platform.

Not long after the launch, SpaceX customers Iridium and SES said the Zuma mission hadn't shaken their confidence in Falcon.

A tweet by SpaceX reads: "Successful deployment of GovSat-1 to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit confirmed".

The satellite is created to expand NATO's surveillance reach and its capability to deter cyber attacks on alliance members. The remaining capacity will be made available to governmental and institutional users on commercial business terms. If everything plays out according to plan, the Falcon Heavy is supposed to launch next Tuesday, and it will carry Elon Musk's own Tesla Roadster sports auto into space.

GovSat-1 also will serve civilian telecommunications security functions.

The launch was the first of what could be four within the next four weeks from the Eastern Range. "GovSat and the launch of GovSat-1 is another step towards strengthening the position of Luxembourg as a key player in the aerospace sector, and contributes to a diversification of our economy". The GovSat-1 satellite brings differentiated capabilities which complement SES's existing suite of offerings for governments and institutions.

It comes a week before the California-based company is slated to conduct its highly anticipated first test flight of the much larger and more powerful Falcon Heavy rocket. With the ability to lift into orbit over 54 metric tons (119,000 lb) - a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel - Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost.

The Falcon Heavy megarocket packs three times the thrust of the Falcon 9. After separating from the second stage, events relating to Falcon 9's first stage recovery operations were heard live in the background of SpaceX's live coverage, leading to some additional intrigue around an already odd situation.

At the moment it's unclear what will be done with the surviving rocket, but depending on its condition it could find itself on another trip - or float proudly in SpaceX folklore for years to come.

The liftoff at 4:25 p.m. (ET) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station followed a technical glitch that prompted a 24-hour flight delay. SpaceX took over the facility in May 2008.

The recycled Falcon 9 rocket wasn't expected return to SpaceX's launch pad. The payload is mated to the Falcon 9 inside SLC-40's hangar on the transporter erector. The launch of the Heavy was planned for February 6 as of Wednesday and the rocket was on the launch pad in preparation for the big day.

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