June 3 (UPI) —
SpaceX launched a communications satellite early Monday morning.
The company’s Falcon 9 rocket, with a used first stage, launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force at 12:29 a.m. Monday.
The rocket will carry the SES-12 satellite to orbit for the Luxembourg-based telecom company SES. The satellite is headed for geostationary orbit, about 22,300 miles above Earth’s surface, and will provide video and data services to customers across the Asia-Pacific region, SES representatives said.
The launch was originally scheduled for early Wednesday morning, and then postponed again to early Friday. But the company announced the need for additional tests to the rocket’s upper stage.
The first stage has flown once before, in September 2017, carrying the robotic X-37B space plane for the U.S. military. The booster then came back to Earth for a pinpoint landing shortly after that liftoff, but won’t do this for the SES-12 mission. The first stage is part of the Falcon 9 “Block 4” build, which is an older variant that SpaceX is phasing out.
The company recently revealed the new Falcon 9 Block 5. Its first stages are designed to fly 10 times with inspections between landing and launch only, and 100 times or more with some refurbishment involved. Operating under such heavy reuse is the breakthrough expected to slash the cost of spaceflight, helping more lofty space exploration goals to be financially feasible, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.
Musk also wants to reuse the two-stage Falon 9’s upper stage and its payload fairing — the nose cone that protects satellites during launch. So far, only the first stages have been landed and launched again.
SpaceX has landed these boosters 25 times, and reflown them on a dozen occasions.