SpaceX has launched a communications satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket, the third such mission for the company in 12 days.
Liftoff of the rocket, carrying Intelsat’s 35e communications satellite, came at 7:38 p.m. EDT July 5 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Unlike in the previous recent launches, there was no attempt to land the rocket’s potentially reusable first stage due to the latest launch’s higher thrust requirements.
It also lifted a cargo craft toward the International Space Station for NASA on June 3, making for a total of four launches in just over a month.
The high-throughput Intelsat 35e satellite becomes part of Luxembourg-based Intelsat’s Epic fleet, providing broadband, video and mobile communications services over eastern North America, the Caribbean, South America, Europe and Africa.
The Intelsat launch had been scheduled for July 2 and a countdown commenced, but a technical glitch prompted an automated abort just command 10 seconds before launch. The same thing happened one day later, again 10 seconds prior to launch, but the third try proved the charm and the Falcon 9 finally lifted off.
Historically, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has tended to overestimate the company’s ability to meet ambitious mission deadlines, prompting skepticism among some industry-watchers about its launch forecasts and flight manifests. The two scrubs ahead of the latest launch hurt chances to turn around those attitudes, though most acknowledge the company’s busy summer launch program has been impressive.
Meantime, there was still cause for jubilation for SpaceX on July 3, when its Dragon cargo craft undocked from the ISS and returned to Earth in a Pacific Ocean splashdown. Samples from a host of technological and biological experiments will be sent to NASA scientists for analysis.