SpaceX sent a dual-payload telecommunications satellite to orbit today, recovered the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster at sea, and narrowly missed catching the rocket’s nose cone components as they fell.
- Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida came at 7:10 p.m. ET (4:10 p.m. PT) at the end of a trouble-free countdown. A little more than a half-hour after launch, the JCSAT-18/Kacific1 satellite was successfully deployed in geostationary transfer orbit. As a cost-saving measure for its operators, the satellite carries two payloads — JCSAT-18 for Japan’s SKY Perfect JSAT, providing TV and broadband data services in Asia; and Kacific Broadband Satellites Group’s Kacific1, which is designed to provide high-speed broadband services for underserved markets and disaster relief in the Asia-Pacific region.
- While the Boeing-built satellite rode to orbit on the Falcon 9’s second stage, the first stage guided itself down to a touchdown on SpaceX’s drone ship, stationed hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic. Such at-sea landings have become routine, and SpaceX’s ability to refurbish and reuse rocket stages helps reduce the cost of access to space.
- SpaceX has also developed procedures for recovering components of the Falcon 9’s nose cone, or fairing, which could save millions of dollars in costs. This time, two ships known as Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief voyaged out with giant nets to try catching both halves of the fairing. “Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief narrowly missed catching the fairing halves — team is working to recover them for potential use on a future flight,” SpaceX reported in a tweet.