Fifth time's the charm as SpaceX pops satellite into orbit
Rocket water landing is a washout
After four aborted attempts, SpaceX's latest and greatest Falcon 9 rocket has successfully delivered the SES-9 communications satellite into orbit.
The rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral right on time at 1835 ET (2335 UTC) and the first stage burn and separation occurred as planned. The rocket's second stage then made another burn before shutting down and coasting until the spacecraft was in the correct position.
A second burn from the rocket motors as the hardware reached the West African coast put the satellite on course for its eventual resting place in geostationary orbit over Asia and 31 minutes and 11 seconds after liftoff, the explosive bolts holding the satellite in place fired, separating the new hardware from Musk's machine.
The satellite, which will run television and data traffic for over a billion people, will now deploy its solar panels and use electrically powered ion thrusters to jockey itself into the correct position. That's going to take a few months, however, due to the low thrust involved.
What's not known for certain as yet is whether or not the first stage of the rocket was able to land on SpaceX's floating barge out in the Atlantic. Given the distances involved in getting to geostationary orbit, there wasn't enough fuel to bring the rocket down on land so the barge was the only option.
Sadly, it was not to be. ®
Rocket landed hard on the droneship. Didn't expect this one to work (v hot reentry), but next flight has a good chance.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 5, 2016