Newest SpaceX booster flies again with Indonesia satellite

Enlarge  A Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket launches

The two-stage "Block 5" Falcon 9 launched at 1:18 a.m. EDT (0518 GMT) today (Aug. 7) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, successfully lofting an Indonesian telecommunications satellite to orbit.

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As noted by webcast host and engineer Lauren Lyons, the second successful drone ship recovery of Falcon 9 Booster 1046 (B1046) paves the way for the SpaceX's first-ever third launch of the same rocket.

As in May, the reflown first-stage booster relit its engines after stage separation, and went through a series of burns to set down on the drone ship, christened "Of Course I Still Love You".

The Block 5 is SpaceX's final version of the Falcon 9, and features improvements to enable first-stage reuse 10 or more times.

Reportedly, SpaceX has boasted that the new Block 5 first stages should be able to launch 10 times with just inspections between landing and liftoff, and 100 times or more with some minor refurbishment involved. SpaceX founder Elon Musk's goal is for swift launch turnarounds using the same rocket, even twice within 24 hours. One of the most important fronts is the development of an low-cost reusable rocket booster system that can be used to launch satelites and manned craft into space.

The Merlin upper stage engine reignited for a almost minute-long firing at 1:44 a.m. EDT (0544 GMT), giving the Merah Putih satellite enough velocity to climb into a geostationary transfer orbit with a low point a few hundred miles above Earth, and a high point expected to reach tens of thousands of miles in altitude. The satellite is owned by PT Telcom, the largest provider of telecommunications services in Indonesia. Built by Lockheed Martin, the satellite was 18 years old, operating three years past its design life. If that happens, we'd see the same Block 5 launch a whopping three times in just one year.

SpaceX's next mission is set for launch no earlier than August 23 with the Telstar 18 VANTAGE communications satellite to provide broadcast, enterprise and government communications services over parts of India, China, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Ocean region. After extensive testing and checkout, the satellite will be put into service.

Tuesday's flight came 16 days after an early morning Falcon 9 launch July 22 that sent the Telstar 19 VANTAGE communications satellite into orbit for Telesat. That flight is scheduled for launch next month from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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