Lighting up the deep overnight sky, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket flashed to life and blasted off from Cape Canaveral early Monday, boosting a powerful SES satellite into space that will deliver direct-to-home TV, broadband and data relay services to customers across the Asia-Pacific region, Australia and the Middle East. Eight years after the Falcon 9's debut on the same pad, the rocket launched from the Launch Complex 40 at 12:45 pm and sent a rumble across the Space Coast, which overwhelmed several residents before the start of the work week. This mission was aimed at transferring the communications satellite SES-12 into its "geostationary transfer orbit".
SpaceX had already used the rocket's first booster stage to launch the US Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle back in September.
Because the first stage is an earlier-generation block 4 booster, it is limited to just two flights and no attempt will be made to recover the rocket after it propels the SES-12 relay station out of the dense lower atmosphere.
"Once operational Crew Dragon missions are under way for NASA, SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the Moon and return to Earth", SpaceX said in a statement.
"We get a lot of performance from this vehicle", Halliwell said of the Falcon 9.
The SES-12 satellite is able to carry more communications loads as it carries very little chemical fuel, which is used by most spacecraft to maneuver and hold their positions. The spent stage then fell away and the single engine powering the second stage took over to continue the trip to space. The 4 hours launch window was opened at near about 12:29 a.m. ET. This version is developed for enhancing the reusability of the rocket.
This is part of SpaceX's wider goal to make launching rockets similar to commercial flights, where they "can be flown again and again".
The Falcon 9 rocket is seeing more use due to upgrades that give it more thrust.
Standing some 27 feet tall and weighing almost 12,000 pounds, Halliwell joked that the spacecraft built in France by Airbus Defense and Space barely fit inside the Falcon 9 rocket's nose cone, or payload fairing.