SpaceX successfully launched a satellite for Japan’s SkyPerfecTV in the early hours of May 6th.
Then, SpaceX successfully landed the valuable first stage of the rocket onto a floating barge (called ‘Of course I still love you’) more than 650 kms down range.
The launch at 1.21 am local Florida time was fairly predictable, even though the cargo was a heavy communications satellite. Extra weight is not in itself a problem for the Falcon-9 rocket but it means there’s less fuel left over for any last-minute manoeuvres for the landing rocket.
But both aspects of the launch were flawless. The Space Systems/Loral-built satellite will eventually be placed into orbit as JCSAT-14 and replace JCSAT-2A and extend the overall footprint over the Asia-Pacific region, and provide extra connectivity for owner JSAT. SkyPerfecTV serves 3.4 million homes with some 250 channels.
This was Space’s fourth launch this year, and the company is planning for 18 missions during 2016.
But again it was the absolutely text-book landing of the first stage onto the barge that will impress potential clients. From achieving a launch speed of 26,720 km/h, then turning the rocket around in mid-flight, and then placing the beast right onto the ‘bull’s eye’ target. Not a bad night’s work for Elon Musk and his team.