SpaceX launched a Thai communications satellite, then successfully landed the booster stage of its reusable rocket on a droneship floating off the coastline from the launch site.
Its unmanned Falcon 9 lifted off at 5:39 EDT on May 27 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The 7,000-pound Thaicom 8 satellite — built by a launch-services rival of SpaceX, Orbital ATK — will beam TV channels and Internet service to Thailand and other portions of the Pan-Pacific region.
The Thaicom 8 sat successfully deployed into its designated orbit roughly 32 minutes after liftoff.
The dramatic sea landing represented the third successful droneship landing in four attempts by SpaceX. The launch was the fifth this year for SpaceX. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company has been expanding its flight manifest of late, scheduling new missions both for public and private customers.
On May 26, International Space Station crew attempted unsuccessfully to expand the BEAM space habitat that SpaceX recently delivered to the orbiting space lab for NASA. BEAM — now attached to the ISS but envisioned as an independently orbiting space habitat in the future — was shipped in April as part of a SpaceX cargo-delivery mission.
NASA says the operation was halted for the day “after several hours of attempts to introduce air into the module.” Crewmembers again will attempt to expand the module sometime May 28.
Once fully expanded, the habitat is set for extensive testing during the next two years. The next SpaceX cargo-resupply mission to the ISS is set for 1:32 a.m. EDT July 16. The company says it will attempt to land the reusable rocket’s first stage on land in that mission.
Among its other scheduled satellite missions, SpaceX recently won an $82.7 million Air Force contract to launch a next-gen GPS satellite on a Falcon 9 in May 2018.
SpaceX’s Thaicom sat launch originally had been set for May 26.
Spacex chief Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the decision to delay the launch that a “tiny glitch in the motion of an upper stage engine actuator” had prompted a one-day mission scrub to allow the problem to be check out more thoroughly in what the company labeled “an abundance of caution.”