SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched a Boeing-built, Israeli telecommunications satellite called Amos-17 into geosynchronous transfer orbit today, adding to what’s shaping up as a largesse of liftoffs.
The launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida came at 7:23 p.m. ET (4:23 p.m. PT), toward the end of an 88-minute launch opportunity that was marked by weather concerns. This was a makeup launch for Spacecom, the Israeli satellite operator that lost its Amos-6 spacecraft when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad in 2016.
Amos-17 is designed to provide enhanced voice, video and data services to customers in Africa and parts of Europe, the Middle East, India and China.
The satellite headed for high Earth orbit, with a correspondingly high fuel requirement. That meant there wasn’t enough fuel left over to try bringing the first-stage booster back for a controlled recovery, as has become routine for SpaceX Falcon 9 missions. The booster had a good run: It was used previously for the Telstar 19 Vantage mission ln July 2018 and the Es’hail-2 mission in November 2018.
About half an hour after launch, SpaceX confirmed that Amos-17 was successfully deployed. “A great day for Falcon 9 and the Amos-17 customer,” launch commentator John Insprucker said.
Although the booster was a write-off, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reported that a section of the Falcon 9’s nose cone, or fairing, floated down on the end of a parachute and was caught in a net hooked up over a boat stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The video clip accompanying Musk’s tweet looked like something from a science-fiction movie:
Rocket fairing falls from space & is caught by Ms Tree boat pic.twitter.com/nJv0Ry1iKk
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2019
SpaceX says that recovering the Falcon 9’s fairing intact should raise the rocket’s reusability quotient and potentially reduce launch costs by millions of dollars.
Today’s SpaceX launch came just a few hours after Europe’s Arianespace consortium launched two satellites into different geostationary orbits from its spaceport in the South American country of French Guiana, using its heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket.
Intelsat 39 will provide upgraded communication services to customers across Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The second satellite, EDRS-C, is part of an effort led by the European Space Agency and Airbus to facilitate high-speed laser communications between orbiting satellites and ground stations.
On Thursday, United Launch Alliance is due to send an advanced communications satellite into geostationary orbit for the Air Force aboard an Atlas 5 rocket.
The latest Advanced Extremely High-Frequency satellite, AEHF-5, is set for liftoff from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 41 – not far from Launch Complex 40, the pad that SpaceX used today. If today’s Amos-17 launch had been delayed, SpaceX would have had to stand down to let United Launch Alliance take its turn.
Built by Lockheed Martin, the satellites of the AEHF constellation are designed to provide secure, jam-resistant, nuclear-survivable satellite communications for military assets on land, sea and in the air. Communication services are provided to the U.S. military and partners in Australia, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands.
The Atlas 5’s Centaur upper stage will also deploy a small Air Force satellite to test orbital debris tracking technologies.
Update for 2 p.m. PT Aug. 11: United Launch Alliance capped off the rocket hat trick with a glorious launch of the Atlas 5, sending the AEHF-5 satellite into its proper orbit. Check out these sights and sounds from the mission:
#ICYMI: #AEHF5 was successfully launched. @AF_SMC is excited to deliver 10x the throughput capability, survivable, global, secure, protected & jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea & air assets w/this joint-service communications satellite! pic.twitter.com/xYT6PgyZVJ
— AF Space Command (@AFSpace) August 10, 2019