Falcon Heavy sends first commercial satellite into orbit

James Marshall
December 7, 2019

SpaceX accomplished its primary mission of launching the Arabsat-6A telecommunication satellite late this afternoon from famed Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be just the second time a Falcon Heavy soars.

During Falcon Heavy's widely watched debut flight in February 2018, only the two side boosters were recovered.

The so-called Arabsat 6A satellite was placed into an equatorial orbit some 22,000 miles (36,000km) above the Earth. The second stage carrying the satellite separated as planned shortly after launch, and SpaceX later confirmed successful deployment in geostationary orbit.

About 34 minutes after takeoff, the satellite was successfully deployed. The company will also try to land the center core booster on a robotic drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Florida.

Landing rockets has become routine for SpaceX. It was less than four years ago when it completed the first successful Falcon 9 landing on a Cape Canaveral launch pad.

Introducing a new ultra-powerful rocket has allowed SpaceX to compete directly with arch rival United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, for lucrative government contracts that require heavy-lift launch vehicles. These rockets are optimized for reusability, offering quicker turnarounds for refurbishment and re-flight.

Privately owned SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, who is also a co-founder of electric auto maker Tesla Inc. Orders for Falcon Heavy flights have grown to five contracted missions, including three commercial missions and a $130 million contract to launch the Air Force Space Command-52 satellite.

High wind speeds far above the ground were responsible for derailing yesterday's launch, and we won't know for sure whether things are calm enough for a launch until SpaceX makes the call.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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