4:20 PM ET update: Another mission success for SpaceX. Not only did the rocket’s second stage successfully launch the Es’hail-2 satellite into geosynchronous orbit on Thursday, the rocket’s first stage also landed safely on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
With the launch on Thursday, SpaceX has flown 18 missions this year, tying the record set in 2017. The company could fly as many as four more rockets this year.
Original mail: In 2017, SpaceX finally answered critics of the company who said it hadn’t lived up to its high-speed flight promise for its low-cost launch program.
Prior to last year, the critics weren’t wrong: SpaceX had never successfully launched more than eight rockets in any given year. Finally, in 2017, it attempted 18 launches, and they all made it to space safely. The SpaceX steamroller had arrived.
The company has had a lot on its plate this year. It first flew the large Falcon Heavy rocket in February. It introduced a brand new, potentially highly reusable variant of the Falcon 9 rocket in May. And throughout the year, the company’s engineers have been making efforts to complete the development of the Dragon spacecraft to meet NASA’s needs to get its astronauts to the International Space Station.
Still, the company has maintained a steady launch frequency, and on Thursday the company will attempt its 18th mission of this year from Launch Complex-39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Thursday’s launch window for the Es’hail-2 satellite mission opens at 3:46 PM ET (20:46 UTC) and lasts until 5:29 PM ET (22:29 UTC). Weather conditions are 60 percent favorable and there is a backup launch window for Friday afternoon.
The Es’hail-2 satellite will provide telecommunications services for the Middle East and North Africa and the first geostationary communications capability for amateur radio. The three-ton satellite will be delivered into geostationary orbit.
The first stage of this Falcon 9 rocket, a Block 5 variant of the booster, first flew on July 22 to launch the Telstar 19V mission. The company will try the first stage on the Of course I still love you drone ship to be based off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. This landing will take place approximately eight minutes after takeoff and the satellite is expected to be placed in its transfer orbit just over 32 minutes after the flight.
After this mission, SpaceX has planned a busy year-end, with no less than four flights before the end of December. The next flight could take place as early as Monday, launching dozens of small satellites on the SSO-A mission, including two CubeSats for Kazakhstan.
The webcast below should start about 15 minutes before the launch window opens on Thursday.