After two aborted attempts, the third time's the charm for SpaceX, as the commercial spaceflight company achieved a milestone launch and put a telecommunications satellite into geostationary orbit with its newly upgraded Falcon 9 rocket.
At 5:41 p.m. Eastern Time, Tuesday, Dec. 2, the Falcon 9 version 1.1 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, carrying an SES-8 telecommunications satellite into orbit.
For the first time, though, this SpaceX mission reached beyond low-Earth orbit, putting the satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit that took it 80,000 kilometres out — nearly one-fifth the distance to the moon. From there, the rocket successfully released the satellite, which will now settle into a regular orbit in the ring of telecommunications satellites, roughly 36,000 kilometres above the Earth's equator.
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"The successful insertion of the SES-8 satellite confirms the upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle delivers to the industry's highest performance standards," SpaceX's CEO/CTO Elon Musk said in a statement. "As always, SpaceX remains committed to delivering the safest, most reliable launch vehicles on the market today. We appreciate SES's early confidence in SpaceX and look forward to launching additional SES satellites in the years to come."
(Photo courtesy: SpaceX Corporation)
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