A flawless sunset launch by Elon Musk-backed SpaceX placed a heavyweight joint-venture Airbus-built SES/EchoStar satellite into geostationary orbit on October 11th.
Some four minutes after launch, the already pre-flown first stage of the rocket landed on a floating barge (named ‘Of course I still love you’) some 600 kms downrange and off Florida’s East coast.
Wednesday’s launch was a record 15th Falcon 9 launch of the year, and the second in three days.
Just after midnight (GMT), SES confirmed it had received signals from the satellite. Viewers tuned to a special SpaceX channel could see the spacecraft separate – in orbit – from the rocket.
The pinpoint landing was the 18th successful recovery of a Falcon’s first stage.
SpaceX used the occasion to state that it was planning a total of 20-24 flights this year. The next is scheduled for later in October.
Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer of SES, said: “The successful launch of SES-11 further strengthens the centre of SES’s North American orbital arc and enables us to continue to provide a premium C-band service to the leading cable operators across the US. We are also proud to launch on another SpaceX flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket and to continuously participate in innovative technology developments within the launch industry.”