June 24, 2019

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches Arabsat-6A as its first commercial payload

12 April 2019, 06:01 | Edward Lowe

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches Arabsat-6A as its first commercial payload

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Falcon Heavy vaulted a pricey communications satellite into orbit for Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat.

The launch took place from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center this evening. Followed about two minutes later by the center core's bullseye drone ship landing, both side boosters once again performed a near-simultaneous recovery at SpaceX's Cape Canaveral Landing Zones.

SpaceX made headlines early a year ago with the first-ever launch of the Falcon Heavy, and the successful return of two of its three boosters was a stunning sight. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said back on April 5 that because this is the first launch of Falcon Heavy's Block 5, the latest and most powerful version of its boosters, they are being "extra cautious".

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About 34 minutes after liftoff, the shiny silver satellite was successfully deployed. The company selected Falcon Heavy in September for a mission anticipated in late 2017 or 2018.

Privately owned SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, was founded in 2002 by Musk, who is also a co-founder of electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc.

Musk's SpaceX, working to prove the flight-worthiness of its rocket fleet one mission at a time, aims to clinch one-third of all US National Security Space missions - coveted contracts that are worth billions of dollars.

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"T plus 33 seconds into flight, under the power of 5.1 million pounds of thrust, Falcon Heavy is headed to space", SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker said on a livestream.

In Falcon Heavy's first launch, in February 2018, a dummy dubbed Starman was placed behind the wheel of Musk's roadster, which is now orbiting the Sun somewhere between Earth and Mars. SpaceX is expected to attempt to land all three this week.

Arabsat-6A was due for its deployment about a half-hour after launch. When Arabsat announced the contracts in 2015, it said at the time that it planned to launch the Arabsat 6A satellite aboard Falcon Heavy. Before the rocket finally launched more than two years later, Musk suggested to several news outlets, including CNN, that the rocket could explode. Falcon Heavy only has five missions on its manifest so far.

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The first Falcon Heavy's central core missed its landing at the end of last year's mission, due to the fact that it ran out of ignition fluid before the final engine burn.

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