SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch

Olive Hawkins
April 14, 2019

The SpaceX launch blasted off on Thursday with the Falcon Heavy carrying a 6,000kg Saudi Arabian communications satellite into orbit.

SpaceX confirmed this evening that the Arabsat-6A satellite, which will be used for communications, was successfully transferred into geosynchronous orbit.

After the launch, Falcon Heavy's center core made a successful vertical landing on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The two side boosters touched down eight minutes and one second after liftoff on Landing Zone 1 and 2 at the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral. Not only did the US launch provider successfully lift the Arabsat payload to orbit, it also successfully landed all three of its boosters back on Earth.

This time around, the payload was the 13,200-pound Arabsat-6A satellite, which is destined to go into geostationary orbit to provide telecommunications services to the Middle East, Africa and Europe through the Saudi-led Arabsat consortium.

Enlarge / The Falcon Heavy fires its 27 engines on the way to space.

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Note that the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy will open for U.S. new opportunities.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine last month suggested possibly using a Falcon Heavy - and another company's big rocket - to get the space agency's Orion capsule around the moon, minus a crew, in 2020. SpaceX already has another Falcon Heavy launch planned for June, a US Air Force mission called STP-2 that consists of dozens of small satellites.

A couple dozen ground telescopes kept tabs on the vehicle during its first several days in space, but it gradually faded from view as it headed out toward the orbit of Mars, Giorgini noted.

The US Air Force tapped SpaceX in 2018 to launch for $130 million a classified military satellite, and in February added three more missions in a $297 million contract. To recall, this was the same rocket that launched a Tesla into space in 2018.

Almost half an hour after taking off from Cape Canaveral aboard the Falcon Heavy, the satellite separated from the rocket and was placed in a geo-synchronous orbit where it will remain for years.

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