July 20 (UPI) — SpaceX launched another communications satellite during the wee hours of Sunday morning.
The company’s 230-foot Falcon 9 rocket blasted off at 1:50 a.m. ET Sunday. The rocket and payload, a Telstar 19 VANTAGE satellite, lifted from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the company’s 13th launch of the year.
The Falcon 9’s first-stage booster landed on the deck of a SpaceX ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean about 8 1/2 minutes after liftoff. It will return to Port Canaveral in a few days.
Thirty-three minutes after launch, 15,500-pound Telstar 19 Vantage satellite was released. It’s orbit is over the equator.
Sunday morning’s mission marked the second launch for the Block 5, the most advanced and final iteration of the Falcon 9. The first one was in May.
When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk introduced the new and improved rocket earlier this year, he said it would eventually be capable of flying back-to-back missions in a 24-hour period.
“We expect it to be a mainstay of SpaceX’s business,” Musk told reporters in May, “and to complete something of the order of 300 flights before retirement.”
The Block 5 rocket isn’t outwardly much different than earlier versions of the Falcon 9 rocket. Its hundreds of minor upgrades are mostly invisible. As a result of the improvements, however, the rocket is more powerful and better equipped for reusability.
Ultimately, SpaceX engineers expect the Block 5 rockets to fly up to 10 missions without refurbishment. Only minimal inspections will be required in-between missions.
The Telstar 19 VANTAGE satellite is owned by Canadian satellite communications company Telesat. In July 1962, Telstar 1 became the first private communications satellite put into orbit. Its technology powered the first broadcast of live television images between the United States and Europe. The company also plans to launch a satellite Wednesday morning from California.