It was a bittersweet moment for SpaceX, as the space flight company successfully launched a communications satellite to a distant orbit but failed to land the remnants safely. This wasn’t completely unexpected though, as this was more a way to test the waters for the next launch.
After a bunch of frustrating delays, SpaceX successfully launched a communications satellite to a distant orbit. So you have an idea what kind of “distant orbit” we’re talking about, the satellite reached its geostationary orbit more than 24,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) above the Earth, about 100 times higher than the International Space Station. From there, the satellite is expected to deliver telecommunications and broadcasts in Asia, for the Luxembourg operator SES, which operates a fleet of more than 50 active and occasional use geostationary communications satellites
“Target altitude of 40,600 kilometers achieved,” wrote SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Twitter.
“Thanks @SES_Satellites for riding on Falcon 9! Look forward to future missions.”
The payload was also impressive: in total, the satellite weighed 11000 lbs (5 tons), making it one of the heaviest satellites ever launched. But Elon Musk, the company’s owner and mastermind had an even more ambitious plan: he attempted to salvage and recover the satellites launch boosters, which are usually just dumped in the sea.
They failed, but this wasn’t completely unexpected. In fact, the company’s leader announced people not to get their hopes up.
“Rocket landed hard on the droneship. Didn’t expect this one to work,” Musk wrote on Twitter.
“But next flight has a good chance.”
SES is delighted to have its heavy satellite in orbit, even though the launch was postponed for months. In the end, it’s more important to ensure that the satellite is properly sent to orbit, where it can safely operate. The Luxembourg company has been one of the most ardent supporters of SpaceX, backing them up since the early days.
“SES-9 is an important building block in our strategy to grow in dynamic regions and four prime sectors – video, enterprise, mobility and government,” said Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer of SES. “Co-located with SES-7, the new satellite will reach 22 million TV homes and is designed to deliver high-performing connectivity to homes, enterprises and institutions across Asia.”