SpaceX Launches EchoStar XXIII Bird Into Orbit

High winds scuttled an initial launch attempt Tuesday (March 14), but at 2:00 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) Thursday, the rocket bolted off its seaside launch pad and soared through clear moonlit skies as it headed into orbit.

With a lifespan of 15 years or more, the EchoStar XXIII satellite will be deployed at 45° West orbital position to provide high-power direct-to-home services into Brazil.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully blasted off from Kennedy Space Center's historic pad 39A on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017.

That's because SpaceX did not plan for a landing of the first stage booster.

Later that day, SpaceX confirmed via Twitter that the EchoStar satellite had been delivered to the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). A droneship landing would have been too much to handle this time, but future rocket designs that use liquid-cooled propulsion fuel may enable landings on GTO missions. The doomed Falcon 9 was one of SpaceX's final expendable rockets.

A camera on the Falcon 9's second stage captures the EchoStar 23 satellite as it drifts away to fly on its own after a successful launch. Contracts for military launches include satellites that let troops communicate on battlefields and are estimated to be valued at about $70 billion through 2030, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has a new mission: Launch a military satellite into orbit. The Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 Block 5 should both launch at some point later this year. For the same launch, SpaceX charges about $60 million, while the ULA charges $109 million, almost double.

Elon Musk's SpaceX won its second-ever launch contract from the USA military by underbidding an alliance of defense industry giants. SpaceX received certification to launch military satellites in 2015 and then won its first Air Force launch contract in April 2016: a contract valued at $87.2 million to launch the military's second GPS-III satellite.

  • Essie Rivera