SpaceX carried out its historic 200th orbital mission on Friday (December 16), sending up a pair of powerful new communications satellites.
A falcon 9 rocket blasted off Friday from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 17:48 EST (22:48 GMT).
The first stage, having done its job, came back down and landed safely on a spacex unmanned spacecraft in the Atlantic Ocean just under nine minutes after takeoff. It was the eighth touchdown for the reusable booster overall.
The second stage, for its part, continued to carry the O3b mPower 1 and 2 satellites toward their predicted Mean Earth Orbits (MEOs). The satellites were deployed as scheduled (opens in a new tab) about two hours after launch.
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O3b mPower 1 and 2 are owned and operated by SES, a Luxembourgish and French satellite telecommunications network company. The pair of spacecraft are the first of a planned constellation of 11 high-throughput, low-latency initial satellites to provide multiple terabits of global broadband connectivity from MEO.
Each satellite is based on a Boeing BSS-702X satellite bus and features phased array antennas that can provide up to 5,000 spot beams to distribute hundreds of gigabits of capacity to users on the ground. SES plans to launch six more O3b mPower satellites in 2023 and three in 2024.
The mission marked SpaceX’s 200th orbital launch overall. These started with the falcon 1, which flew five times between 2006 and 2009, leading to the Falcon 9’s first liftoff on June 4, 2010. The Falcon 9’s first stage is powered by nine Merlin engines, a fact that contributes to the rocket’s name. The second stage uses a single vacuum-optimized Merlin to complete the journey to orbit.
The launch rate of the Falcon 9 has increased dramatically over the years, as the rocket has proven its reliability, versatility, and reusability, while also evolving into its final Block 5 version. The rocket has now flown 191 missions. , including a record 57 in 2022 alone.
Four SpaceX orbital missions have been flown by the powerful hawk heavyemploying three modified Falcon 9 first stages.
There will be little time for SpaceX to celebrate the 200 mission milestone. The company plans to launch a large batch of its star link broadband satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday (December 17).
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8:30 pm EST on December 1. 16 with news of the successful deployment of satellites.
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