SpaceX launches sec­ond rocket in three days

The Mercury News - - Local News - By Sandy Mazza South­ern Cal­i­for­nia News Group

SpaceX pulled off its sec­ond launch in three days Wed­nes­day, de­liv­er­ing a com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite to or­bit that will en­hance dig­i­tal TV ser­vices across North Amer­ica.

The pre­flown rocket booster that lifted the satel­lite and the up­per-stage rocket car­ry­ing it out­side Earth’s at­mos­phere blasted off at 3:53 p.m. PDT from Launch Com­plex 39A at Kennedy Space Cen­ter at Cape Canaveral Air Force Sta­tion in Flor­ida.

This was the third suc­cess­ful launch by the Hawthorne-based com­pany us­ing an al­ready flown 16-story-tall booster. Such reusabil­ity re­duces the cost of space flight, and is key to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to have a fleet of low­cost equip­ment.

The SES-11 satel­lite, built by Air­bus and op­er­ated by Colorado-based EchoStar Corp., will re­place old satel­lite tech­nol­ogy.

This is SpaceX’s 15th mis­sion of the year, and the sec­ond time since June that it has pulled off bi­coastal launches in a three-day pe­riod. On Mon­day, SpaceX launched its fourth West Coast mis­sion of the year from Van­den­berg Air Force Base near Lom­poc.

The com­pany on Wed­nes­day also ac­com­plished its 18th suc­cess­ful land­ing of a launched rocket booster. The first­stage rocket flipped around when it reached the edge of the at­mos­phere and made three short burns as it re­turned to land gen­tly on a robotic barge called an au­ton­o­mous drone ship named Of Course I Still Love You.

The unique soft­ware that al­lows for th­ese pre­ci­sion land­ings is be­ing per­fected by the com­pany so that its land­ings and space­craft de­liv­er­ies can be ac­com­plished with as lit­tle man­ual guid­ance as pos­si­ble, Musk has said.

In ad­di­tion to its ocean­based rocket land­ing pads on both coasts, SpaceX has a ground-based land­ing pad at Cape Canaveral and is build­ing a sec­ond one near it to land two boost­ers and a rocket core si­mul­ta­ne­ously from its in­de­vel­op­ment Fal­con Heavy rocket.

Fal­con Heavy is set to be tested be­fore the end of the year, but Musk has al­ready an­nounced that the com­pany is de­vel­op­ing an even larger rocket, called BFR.

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