Arabsat 6A finally launched from Cape Canaveral on the evening of April 11th. It was all smiles following the flawless lift-off of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket complete with its 6460 kgs (13200 lbs) cargo.
SpaceX staff and engineers were thrilled that each of 3 key rocket elements (the core rocket and two side boosters) were successfully returned after the launch. The two side boosters came down simultaneously and spot-onto their landing pads at the Cape. Nine minutes after lift-off the main central rocket returned and landed perfectly onto its floating barge (named ‘Of Course I Still Love You’). SpaceX boss Elon Musk tweeted ‘The Falcons have landed’. This was the first-ever triple landing.
Arabsat certainly had reasons to be cheerful, but so did satellite builder Lockheed Martin given that its LM2100 version’s second flight had been upgraded with more than 20 significant modifications including new avionics and solar arrays. The first version of the new LM2100 had been Saudi Arabia’s GeoSat-1/HellasSat-4 which launched in February.
Using SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy commercial flight means that the satellite will be placed into a high geostationary transfer orbit and should be on station in 16-17 days.
Khalid Balkheyour, CEO at Arabsat, said the satellite was 40-50 per cent pre-sold ahead of launch. Arabsat 6A will operate from 30.5 degrees East.
The launch, at 22.35 GMT, means that Arabsat now has nine satellites in orbit (which includes two Hellas craft).
Balkheyour added: “We are thankful for 6A satellite launch success as it was challenging for us and SpaceX because it is the first largest and heaviest satellite lifted by SpaceX on the most powerful rocket in operation today, the Falcon Heavy, which was designed specifically to launch such a load commercially, that is why this launch is considered a momentous leap in the field of commercial satellites manufacturing and launching “