A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lit up the sky around Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida early Tuesday with a successful launch, placing an Indonesian telecommunications satellite into orbit and demonstrating the reusability of the company's upgraded booster. The name refers to the red and while colors of Indonesia's flag.
Reportedly, SpaceX has boasted that the new Block 5 first stages should be able to launch 10 times with just inspections between landing and liftoff, and 100 times or more with some minor refurbishment involved.
The Block 5 is SpaceX's final version of the Falcon 9, and features improvements to enable first-stage reuse 10 or more times.
Such reuse goals are crucial to SpaceX's long-term mission of reducing the cost of space transportation, with an aim to eventually launch a Falcon 9 rocket, recover the booster, and re-launch it within 24 hours, according to Musk, who said in May that could be accomplished as soon as next year.
Seconds before touchdown, four legs deployed and the rocket settled to an on-target landing.
A few minutes after separation, three of the first stage's nine engines re-ignited to slow the booster for entry back into the discernible atmosphere, using four titanium "grid fins" at the top of the rocket to maintain its orientation and trajectory.
The first stage landed right about the same time the second stage engine shut down after reaching the planned preliminary "parking" orbit.
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With three months between the Bangabandhu and Merah Putih missions, and a record turnaround time of two months, SpaceX has its work cut out.
The new telecom craft, designed for a 16-year life, was built by SSL in Palo Alto, California.
Officials from Telkom Indonesia expected the Telkom 1 satellite, which launched in 1999, to remain operational until Merah Putih's launch.
Merah Putih will be located at 108 degrees east longitude. The satellite is owned by PT Telcom, the largest provider of telecommunications services in Indonesia.
Launch coverage can be seen on Space Coast Daily TV.
If launch remains set for August 23, liftoff is scheduled for a window opening at 11:33 p.m. EDT (0333 GMT on August 24). After extensive testing and checkout, the satellite will be put into service.