SpaceX successfully launched a pair of communications satellites into orbit on a Falcon 9, but the first stage of the rocket failed to stick its landing on a nearby droneship.
That latter disappointment makes SpaceX three for four in its attempts to land rocket boosters at sea. SpaceX also previously stuck a landing on a land-based site, as it seeks to make its rockets dependably reusable. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based launch provider wants to have both land and sea landings available to allow for maximum planning flexibility for a variety of mission needs and conditions.
In the latest unmanned SpaceX launch, liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida came at 7:29 EDT June 15. Both customers’ Boeing-built satellites successfully separated from the Falcon 9 second stage for successful deployment into their respective orbits by about 35 minutes after launch.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk posted on Twitter that the Falcon 9’s landing engines failed to provide optimum thrust, resulting in the failed landing attempt.
“Looks like thrust was low on 1 of 3 landing engines,” Musk tweeted.
SpaceX officials have stressed that the company’s landing attempts still are considered test cases only.
French-based satellite provider Eutelsat owns one of the sats, and the other belongs to Asia Broadcast Satellite, headquartered in Bermuda. More than 6,000 TV stations throughout Europe and adjacent regions depend on Eurosat satellites for transmissions, while ABS says its broadcasting and data services span regions holding 80 percent of the global population.
It was SpaceX’s second joint launch for Eutelsat and ABS, following a similar mission in March 2015. About a half-dozen satellite providers currently figure in SpaceX Falcon 9 flight manifest for the next several months.
SpaceX has been steadily increasing its launch frequency of late, with recent missions including the Florida launch of a Thai communications satellite.