SpaceX launches Hispasat 30W-6 and sets another record

Early this morning SpaceX successfully launched the Hispasat 30W-6 satellite aboard its Falcon 9 rocket.  This was the 50th launch of the Falcon 9, coming seven years and nine months since the first in 2010, the previous record was held by United Launch Alliance who’s Atlas V achieved the same record in nine years and seven months.

As well as being their 50th Falcon 9 launch this was also the heaviest payload they have launched to a Geostationary Transfer Order at six metric tonnes, the previous heaviest was five and half metric tonnes.

Originally SpaceX was planning to land the first stage, however, the seas out in the Atlantic were too turbulent so they elected to not land the stage.

ULA launches GOES-S satellite

United Launch Alliance successfully launched the NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) satellite this evening from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 41.

Following a smooth countdown, the rocket lifted off at 5:02 pm EST and successfully deployed the satellite into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit 3h 32m later.

SpaceX successfully launches Paz satellite and own Starlink Demo satellites

This morning SpaceX successfully launched the Paz satellite for Spanish company hisdeSAT as well as two of their own Starlink demo satellites.

The launch was delayed several times to allow SpaceX engineers more time to ensure the rocket was ready for flight and due to upper-level winds.

This was the 4th launch of 2018 for SpaceX and was the 9th time a previously flown booster was used.  As this was an older booster SpaceX didn’t attempt to recover it, instead choosing to let it crash into the ocean.  They did, however, attempt to recover one half of the payload fairing on their new boat Mr. Steven.  This was the first flight of the new 2.0 fairing which has been modified to allow it to be recoverable.

SpaceX launches first Falcon Heavy

In a major milestone for the company, SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon Heavy rocket today.

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The Falcon Heavy was first proposed in 2011 just after the first flights of Falcon 9 had been completed, however, it has taken seven years for the rocket to go from the drawing board to flight.  During that time SpaceX has made a number of significant improvements to the Falcon 9 that have made some of the flights that were originally planned for Heavy possible on Falcon 9.  The final iteration Block 5 is due to start flying later this year which could improve performance even more, however, at present we don’t have details to specify by how much.

Now that Falcon Heavy is operation SpaceX has the most powerful currently active rocket in the world with 5.1 million pounds of thrust.  This version flew with the older Block 3 setup, future variants could be even more powerful.

Due to the design of the Falcon Heavy and SpaceX’s ability to land their core stages we had the privilege of watching two landings today.  The two side booster separated from the rocket at 2:33 minutes into the flight and returned to the Landing Zones at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  The center core continued to power the flight until 3:09 minutes before separating from the upper stage and attempting a landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I Still Love You”. At present we don’t have a status on the center core, we will update the article once we hear more news from SpaceX.
UPDATE – It is looking increasingly likely that the center core didn’t survive the landing, we will post an official statement from SpaceX once we have it.

In another first for SpaceX, the upper stage will coast for six hours before performing a third burn which will send the payload on a hyperbolic orbit towards Mars.  To enable SpaceX to win contracts for launches directly to Geostationary Orbits, they need to demonstrate the ability to restart the stage once it has traveled through the Van Allen Belts that surround the planet.

For this launch Elon Musk has placed his Ruby Red Roadster on top of the upper stage, aboard the car is a dummy wearing a SpaceX spacesuit.

Starman in Red Roadster

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Elon confirmed that the 2nd burn of the upper stage was successful, we will find out in approximately 5 hours if the 3rd was too.

This was the 3rd launch for 2018 and because two cores landed successfully the 4th landing **

This was the 49th launch since Falcon 9 started flying and 25th landing.

** The GovSat1 launch didn't land on the ASDS, however, the core did survive and we are counting that as a successful landing.

SpaceX launches GovSat 1

SpaceX successfully launched GovSat 1 today for their second launch of 2018, the Falcon 9 first stage used for this launch was previously flown in May 2017 and was disposed of in the Atlantic Ocean after successfully separating from the second stage. The second stage continued to orbit where is successfully delivered the GovSat 1 satellite.

Built by Orbital ATK for LuxGovSat, a joint venture between SES and the government of Luxembourg will provide secure military X-band and Ka-band communications links, helping support Luxembourg’s NATO obligations

Initially, it was thought that SpaceX wasn’t going to attempt any recovery on this mission as they didn’t send out the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, however, they did send out some of the support ships and now we know why based on this tweet from Elon Musk

Arianespace SES 14/Al Yah 3 launch update

It now appears that the launch this evening was at least partially successful as announced by Arianespace, however, at present, we don’t know for certain if the satellites were deployed to the correct orbits or not.

SES made the following announcement, based on this it does appear that the Ariane 5 delivered the satellites into a lower than expected orbit, in the SES press release they announced that the spacecraft would require an additional four weeks to reach the desired orbit and would use its electric propulsion system to get there.

We don’t know what impact this will have on the Al Yah 3 satellite that uses the traditional chemical-based propulsion to reach it’s desired orbit before switching to an electric system for station keeping.

We will update the article when further news is available.

Arianespace SES 14/Al Yah 3 launch appears to have failed

Today’s Ariane 5 launch of the SES 14 and Al Yah 3 satellites appears to have failed sometime after the first stage separation. The launch lifted off at 5:20 pm EST and appeared to be going smoothly with the successful booster separation, payload fairing separation, and first stage engine burnout.

However, telemetry from the spacecraft was lost soon after the first stage separation and while the launch commentator continued to read out successful milestones it soon became obvious that something was wrong when the DDO (Launch Range Manager in English) wasn’t announcing those same milestones.

As the mission continued Arianespace paused their live stream of the events with the notice that they were waiting for satellite signal acquisition before resuming, after a while the CEO of Arianespace made an official announcement that there appears to have been an anomaly with the launch. That doesn’t mean that the satellites were lost but they will not know until they have researched further.

We will update this article as we receive more information from Arianespace but expect that there may be a delay to future launches.

SpaceX completes Falcon Heavy Static Fire Test

Despite the uncertainty regarding the fate of the Zuma launch, see the previous post, SpaceX continued their busy year with the first static fire test of their Falcon Heavy Rocket.

The rocket which consists of three Falcon 9 cores mated together giving a total of 27 engines and 5.1 million pounds of thrust was successfully fueled today and the brief static fire test completed.  At present we are not sure if another test will be needed or if SpaceX will proceed to the actual launch later this month.

Once SpaceX has analyzed all the data from this test the next step will be defined and we will post an update here.

The following images were captures from Florida Today’s live stream of the test

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ULA launches SBIRS-4 satellite

United Launch Alliance launched their 2nd mission of 2018 with the successful liftoff of the Atlas V carrying the Air Forces Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) 4 satellite which will be placed in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO).

Following a one day delayed due to a valve issue on the pad, the rocket lifted off at 7:48 pm EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Launch Complex 41 and successfully delivered the payload to orbit.

SES and Iridium both show support for SpaceX

After the rumors of the failed Zuma mission, two of SpaceX’s biggest customers announced there continued support for the company, SES having reviewed the data from the Zuma flight said there January 30th launch was still on schedule.

As we have previously posted, news on Zuma is limited, but it seems clear from these customers they are confident in the Falcon 9 rocket and are trusting them to continue to launch payloads.

SES sent the following tweet this week

And Iridium boss Matt Desch tweeted