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Falcon 9 carries communications satellite into orbit

Space X Even though the Falcon 9 rocket is designed to be reusable, it was abandoned during separation and left to plummet back down to earth. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched at 2 AM on Thursday, March 16, carrying a communications satellite into a high geosynchronous transfer orbit above the Earth.

The launch, SpaceX’s second from the historic Launch Complex 39A (LC39A) at NASA’s Kennedy’s Space Center, had been postponed from two days earlier due to high winds.

LC39A was the launch site for the Apollo 11 moon mission and for the last space shuttle in 2011. In a 2014 contract with NASA, the company agreed to lease the site as well as remodel its pad to accommodate the Falcon 9 and its successor, the Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX’s pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Launch Complex 40, was damaged when a Falcon 9 exploded during testing on September 1. Repairs to the site are scheduled for this summer.

This launch did not include a first stage return landing because the large amount of fuel required to put the satellite into its orbit 22,000 miles above the Earth did not leave enough for a booster landing.

Known as EchoStar XXIII, the communications satellite is heavier than average at 12,000 pounds. Its destination requires the Falcon 9 to travel at tremendous speed, which uses up additional fuel.

Deployed on behalf of the company EchoStar, it will provide Brazil with broadband satellite services.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has stated he wants to use the Falcon Heavy, an upgraded rocket that is essentially three Falcon 9’s strapped together, for future heavy payloads headed to high orbits.

The company is also working on another upgrade of the Falcon 9 known as Block 5, which will be easier to reuse. Musk hopes to eventually launch heavy satellites on that rocket and has scheduled its first flight for the end of this year.

Laurel Kornfeld

Laurel Kornfeld

Staff Writer
Laurel Kornfeld is a freelance writer and amateur astronomer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.
About Laurel Kornfeld (1100 Articles)
Laurel Kornfeld is a freelance writer and amateur astronomer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.