As part of a daring experiment for reusable rocket technology, the space exploration firm attempted to land the first stage of the rocket on “Of Course I Still Love You”, one out of its two autonomous spaceport drone ships.
The Falcon 9 soared into the skies above Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida just after sunset at 6:35 p.m. ET (3:35 p.m. PT) after a smooth countdown.
The secondary test objective of SpaceX was to land the Falcon 9 rockets first stage on an ocean going barge about 300 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.
The satellite must reach a geostationary orbit more than 23,000 miles (38,000 kilometers) above the Earth, where it will deliver broadband and television channels to southeast Asia.
Thursday’s launch delivered a telecom satellite into orbit for SES, a Luxembourg-based company that operates a fleet of satellites for corporations and governments.
SES-9 will be co-located with another SES-owned satellite, SES-7, at the prime orbital location of 108.2Â°E. If anything were to happen to the SpaceX vehicle after launch while the rocket was over the water, it could potentially be extremely unsafe to boats within a specified range. SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk cautioned prior to this launch that “a successful landing is not expected,” (PDF link) due to the mission’s “unique” profile, which involves deploying a satellite payload at a very high altitude.
The trip, initially scheduled for February 24, was delayed numerous times – most notably once when a tugboat pulling a barge wandered into the “no-go” zone. Musk tweeted afterwards that the rocket “landed hard” as a result of not being able to slow itself down properly. Although it’s a bummer that SpaceX didn’t succeed at it’s old landing attempt, it was an advantage objective the organization didn’t actually expect you’ll function (more with this in a minute).
But the first stage of the rocket again failed to land on the company’s droneship in the ocean. The Falcon-Heavy rocket, which is made up of three first-stage boosters, is also expected to make its debut before the end of the year, and the Dragon is expected to carry astronauts to the ISS for the first time in early 2017, the British media outlet added.
After some frustrating postponements over the past week and a half – including a last-second abort on Sunday – the company’s Falcon rocket left its Florida pad right on cue on Friday.