SpaceX lands rocket booster

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Sa­man­tha Ma­sunaga sa­man­tha.ma­sunaga@la­times.com

The firm launches a com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite with a used first-stage booster, then lands it again.

SpaceX launched a com­mer­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite Friday with a pre­vi­ously used first-stage booster and then landed the rocket on a float­ing sea plat­form, mark­ing a re­peat ac­com­plish­ment for the com­pany.

The satel­lite was de­ployed to a geo­sta­tion­ary trans­fer or­bit about 35 min­utes af­ter launch.

SpaceX Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Elon Musk had tried to tem­per ex­pec­ta­tions of the booster’s land­ing just prior to the launch, tweet­ing that the Fal­con 9 rocket would ex­pe­ri­ence its “high­est ever reen­try force and heat” dur­ing Friday’s launch.

“Good chance rocket booster doesn’t make it back,” he tweeted. But the booster landed on a float­ing drone ship in the At­lantic Ocean about nine min­utes af­ter liftoff.

The launch from Kennedy Space Cen­ter in Florida was de­layed al­most a week so SpaceX could re­place a valve. Musk tweeted ear­lier in the week that the part was “dual re­dun­dant, but not worth tak­ing a chance.” Then on Friday morn­ing, SpaceX pushed back the launch time by one hour so its teams could con­duct ad­di­tional ground sys­tem checks.

SpaceX launched the first Bul­gar­ian geo­sta­tion­ary com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite, known as Bul­gar­i­aSat-1, which will pro­vide dig­i­tal TV and broad­band In­ter­net ac­cess to users in Europe.

The satel­lite was launched on a Fal­con 9 with a first-stage booster that orig­i­nally launched 10 satel­lites into or­bit six months ago and landed on a float­ing plat­form at sea. That launch marked the Hawthorne com­pany’s re­turn to flight af­ter a launch pad ex­plo­sion in Septem­ber grounded op­er­a­tions for sev­eral months.

SpaceX, whose full name is Space Ex­plo­ration Tech­nolo­gies Corp., first launched and landed a pre­vi­ously used booster in March, an ac­com­plish­ment an­a­lysts say could sharply re­duce launch costs if it is re­peat­able and re­fur­bish­ment costs are min­i­mal.

Musk has said SpaceX’s goal is to have boost­ers ready to fly again within 24 hours af­ter they land — mean­ing the only change would be to re­fuel.

SpaceX has an­other launch sched­uled Sun­day, when it plans to send 10 com­mer­cial satel­lites into or­bit from Van­den­berg Air Force Base in Cal­i­for­nia in its first at­tempt at a rapid turn­around be­tween launches.

John Raoux Associated Press

A SPACEX Fal­con 9 rocket car­ry­ing a com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite lifts off from Kennedy Space Cen­ter.

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