SpaceX re-launched a used Block 5 rocket, Falcon 9’s first stage booster, from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force station which in turn, deployed the Indonesian Merah Putih satellite for PT Telkom Indonesia into the orbit minutes later.
This launch was the third mission by Elon Musk’s company in 16 days and the 15th of 2018, successfully re-landing on one of SpaceX’s drone ships ‘Of Course I Still Love’, which was stationed a few hundred miles away in the Atlantic Ocean.
Due to the success of this landing, which was the 28th booster that the company has ever recovered, Falcon 9 may go into space for the third time.
This is the first time that the Block 5 booster has been reused which means that this version of rocket could be launched as many as 10 times, with limited refurbishment between missions, as reported by Bloomberg.
The Falcon 9 was deployed from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:18am local time.
Eight minutes after it took off, Space X landed the Falcon 9’s first stage on one of its drone ships called ‘Of Course I Still Love You’.
The rocket deployed a Merah Putih satellite, which is a geostationary communications website that will provide service to Indonesia and other parts of South and Southeast Asia, just 32 minutes after the launch.
According to SpaceX representatives, 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. The satellite is expected to have a service lifetime of 15 or more years,’ as stated in a mission description.
SpaceX is planning around 30 missions in 2018, up from a record of 18 in 2017. Ahead of the debut launch of the Falcon 9 Block 5, Elon Musk said that within the next year, he wanted to fly the same vehicle twice in a 24-hour period.
In May 2018, Falcon 9 was used to send a large communications satellite for Bangladesh from Florida and the vehicle landed on a drone ship, it was inspected, refurbished and made ready for flight again.
After this, Musk said: ‘We are going to be very rigorous in taking this rocket apart and confirming our design assumptions to be confident that it is indeed able to be reused without being taken apart,’ according to Money Control.
He continued to say that the Block 5’s first stage booster had been designed to fly 10 times ‘with no scheduled refurbishment’ and with ‘moderate scheduled maintenance’, ultimately being capable of 100 missions.
The August 7 launch is the 15th time that one of SpaceX’s ‘flight-proven’ or previously-flown rockets has returned to space and completed a mission.
What this means is that with the reuse of boosters, it limits the amount of upkeep and reduces the cost of space flight. Due to SpaceX’s success in this area, it is becoming one of the most valuable venture-backed startups in the US.
SpaceX was founded by Tesla owner Elon Musk and has the aim ‘to revolutionize space technology with the ultimate goals of enabling people to live on other planets’.
Also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, the concept of the company was conceived on a flight from Moscow, where Musk had tried to find an intercontinental ballistic missile at a low price so that mice could be sent to Mars.
He then calculated that he could build the rockets himself and at a faster and cheaper rate than the competition and SpaceX was born in 2002. The company grew and in 2008, NASA awarded the company a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract and three years later, another $75 million.
The latter contract was in order to ‘develop a revolutionary launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts’. SpaceX then received $2.6 billion to construct a Dragon V2 spacecraft.
In 2008, SpaceX’s Falcon 1 was the first privately-developed liquid fuel rocket to reach the Earth’s orbiot and this launch was followed up with the Falcon 1 flight 5, the first of its kind to deliver a commercial satellite to our planet’s orbit.
Two years later, the company was able to send a spacecraft into orbit and bring it back in one piece and then, became the first private organisation to reach a space station – when the Dragon craft visited the ISS in 2012.
In December 2015, the Falcon 9 rocket achieved the first ever orbital class rocket landing after returning from delivering 11 communications satellites and this year, it launched Falcon Heavy, the heaviest rocket in use.