Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Research | By Jennifer Evans

SpaceX launches Indonesian comsat with 'used' booster

SpaceX launches Indonesian comsat with 'used' booster

Is a SpaceX rocket ready for a three-peat? That distinction goes to an older-generation Block 4 booster, which launched April 18 and then again June 29 from Cape Canaveral, before SpaceX intentionally disposed of the rocket.

The first-stage booster previously soared in May, the first time out the gate for this upgraded rocket.

So far, the booster appears up to the task.

"For instance, its grid fins, which are used for steering the rocket back from space, are made out of titanium, so they won't catch fire on the way back to Earth".

The Falcon 9, with its Block 5 booster, placed an Indonesian telecommunications satellite into orbit after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. On that earlier flight, the Block 5, after getting the rocket soaring, landed on the company's autonomous spaceport drone ship, called Of Course I Still Love You.

With the introduction of the upgraded Falcon 9 and its successful re-flight, SpaceX begins in earnest its drive to transition reusable rockets from an experimental project into something more routine, like aircraft operations.

Falcon 9 B1046.2 successfully landed aboard OCISLY after its second launch, paving the way for its third mission and beyond. Shortly after the launch, Musk told Ars Technica, "We are going to be very rigorous in taking this rocket apart and confirming our design assumptions to be confident that it is indeed able to be reused without taking it apart". The company also plans to reuse larger New Glenn rockets to be built in a new factory at KSC's Exploration Park, possibly launching by 2020.

The hope is to use it for 10 launches before it needs to be looked at and restored.

The first stage pulsed cold gas nitrogen thrusters to ready for its descent, while the Falcon 9's second stage - powered by a single Merlin engine - ignited for the first of two burns to send the Merah Putih satellite into an egg-shaped geostationary transfer orbit. Merah Putih translates into "red and white" and is a reference to the colors on Indonesia's national flag.

The new satellite will replace the aging Telkom 1 satellite, which has been in operation since 1999.

Its primary goal is to launch a 5.8-ton satellite called Merah Putih meant to improve telecommunications in Indonesia, India, and much of Southeast Asia.

"Satellite plays a vital role in our telecommunications infrastructure", said Zulhelfi Abidin, Telkom's chief technology officer.

Tuesday's launch was the third SpaceX mission in 16 days, and the company's 15th launch of the year overall.

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