SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sends Inmarsat telecom satellite to high-flying orbit

Posted May 16, 2017

When the third satellite was launched in 2015, Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said his company was switching to SpaceX because of the "unacceptably high failure rate" of Russia's Proton rockets.

Despite several failed launches of its Falcon 9 rockets, Elon Musk's private space venture has had five successful missions, so far.

As a result, SpaceX will not attempt to land the rocket's first stage either at Cape Canaveral or at sea, and the Falcon 9 booster is not equipped with landing legs. Due to the heavy amount of fuel aboard the satellite (over 5,000 pounds of propellant), the total weight of the payload at launch exceeds 13,000 pounds.

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Instead, the spent rocket will fall into the Atlantic Ocean, as numerous rocket boosters did before SpaceX and others like Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin led the charge toward reusable rockets. The satellite will deploy about 30 minutes after launch.

The satellite is the size of a double decker bus.

For the short term, SpaceX has set the goal of making 24 launches a year, which would certainly go a lot faster and cheaper if it didn't have to keep building rockets for every mission. It will carry the Inmarsat 5 F4 communications satellite into orbit. It is headed for geostationary transfer orbit, meaning it will orbit the earth from a roughly fixed position above the ground.

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The launch will come from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The 7th launch will happen 2 weeks from now at the beginning on June. This satellite, known as the I-5 F4, is the fourth satellite in the company's fifth-generation fleet of satellites. Inmarsat has an option for another future flight with SpaceX. That means SpaceX may finally be getting to the launch cadence that the company has boasted for a while now.

The three earlier satellites in the $1.6 billion constellation were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by Russian rockets.

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