SpaceX launched a communications satellite into orbit and landed a ship’s rocket at sea early Thursday (November 3).
The first stage of the Falcon 9 returned to Earth just under nine minutes later, landing as planned aboard a SpaceX drone, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
This was the seventh launch and landing for this very first stage.
“The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission has previously launched CRS-22, Crew-3, Turksat 5B, Crew-4, CRS-25 and one Starlink mission,” SpaceX wrote in describing the pre-launch mission (Opens in a new tab). (Crew 3 and Crew-4 were astronaut missions to International Space Stationand the CRS-22 and CRS-25 were unmanned cargo flights to the orbiting laboratory.)
Meanwhile, Hotbird 13G continued to fly over the upper stage of Falcon 9, which deployed the satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit on schedule, about 36 minutes after liftoff.
The Hotbird 13G is built by Airbus Defense and Space and will be operated by the France-based telecom company Eutelsat. The satellite will eventually set up shop in geostationary orbit, about 22,300 miles (35,900 kilometers) above our planet.
The Hotbird 13G will join its twin Hotbird 13F, which launched on that patch of cosmic real estate aboard the Falcon 9 last month. The two spacecraft will replace three of Hotbird’s existing satellites, and they’ll take on a great deal of responsibility.
The Hotbird satellite family constitutes “one of Europe’s largest broadcasting systems, delivering 1,000 TV channels to more than 160 million TV homes in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East,” Eutelsat . representatives wrote (Opens in a new tab).
The Hotbird 13G launch was SpaceX’s second from the Florida space coast in about two days. On Tuesday (November 1), Elon Musk’s Company USSF-44 mission launched for the US Space Force from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
USSF-44 used a Falcon Heavy Rocket, the most powerful launcher flying today. It was the fourth mission ever for the Falcon Heavy and the first since June 2019.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 2AM ET on November 3 with news of a successful launch, rocket landing, and satellite deployment.
Mike Wall is the author of “Abroad (Opens in a new tab)Book (Great Grand Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrials. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab) or on Facebook (Opens in a new tab).