Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral

The Block 5, unlike previous models, is created to need little taking-apart and refurbishment in between launches.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket took off from Cape Canaveral's Complex 40 launch pad at 1:18 a.m. EDT (0518 GMT), turned toward the east and broke the sound barrier within about one minute. Merah Putih "will carry an all C-band payload capable of supporting a wide range of applications, including providing mobile broadband across Indonesia and Southeast Asia". Other improvements include the grid fins, which are used for steering the rocket back from space.

With its successful landing, Falcon 9 may well go into space for the third time. On that earlier flight, the Block 5, after getting the rocket soaring, landed on the company's autonomous spaceport drone ship, called Of Course I Still Love You.

Around the same time, the Falcon 9's upper stage shut down and entered a preliminary orbit before a almost 20-minute coast across the Atlantic.

The upper-stage continued into orbit, firing an engine twice before releasing the roughly 12,800-pound "Merah Putih" satellite 32 minutes after liftoff.

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The 60-transponder, all C-band satellite separated from the rocket's upper stage nearly 32 minutes later.

"The satellite is expected to have a service lifetime of 15 or more years", SpaceX said. This milestone may feel small in the shadow of SpaceX's accomplishments over the last ~18 months but make no mistake: the second flight of a Block 5 booster is by far the company's most significant achievement in recent years. "This rocket probably won't refly for probably a couple of months, but by late this year we should be seeing substantial reflight of Block 5 vehicles, probably with Block 5 boosters seeing their third, maybe their fourth reflight".

He said the Block 5's first stage booster is created to fly 10 times "with no scheduled refurbishment".

The block 5 is the rocket SpaceX founder Elon Musk is counting on to launch astronauts to the International Space Station starting next year, the centerpiece of the company's drive to lower launch costs while improving reliability.

Update 1:50 AM ET: Merah Putih is in position. That distinction goes to an older-generation Block 4 booster, which launched April 18 and then again June 29 from Cape Canaveral, before SpaceX intentionally disposed of the rocket.

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