SpaceX completed its milestone 200th orbital mission on Friday (Dec. 16) by launching a pair of powerful new communications satellites.
A Falcon 9 The rocket lifted off Friday from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Station 5:48 pm EST (2248 GMT).
The first stage, having done its job, returned and landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean on a SpaceX spacecraft less than nine minutes after liftoffs. It was the reusable running back’s eighth touchdown overall.
The second phase, meanwhile, continues carrying the O3b mPower 1 and 2 satellites towards medium Earth orbit (MEO). They were satellites deployed on schedule (Opens in a new tab) about two hours after launch.
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O3b mPower 1 and 2 are owned and operated by SES, the Franco-Luxembourg telecommunications network company. The two spacecraft are the first of an initial constellation of 11 high-throughput and low-power satellites to provide multiple bandwidth connectivity to the global cluster from MEO.
Each satellite is based on the Boeing BSS-702X satellite bus and features an array of antennas that can provide up to 5,000 radio spots to distribute hundreds of gigabits of capacity to users on the ground. SES plans to launch six more O3b mPower satellites in 2023 and three in 2024.
The mission marked SpaceX’s 200th orbital launch overall. They started Falcon 1, which flew five times between 2006 and 2009, leading to the Falcon 9’s first liftoff on June 4, 2010. The Falcon 9 is the first step through nine Merlin guns, giving the rocket its name. The second stage uses a single and vacuum-optimized Merlin to complete its journey to orbit.
The Falcon 9 customer rating has grown dramatically over the years as the rocket has proven its reliability, versatility and reusability, while also evolving into the final version of the 5. The rocket has now flown 191 missions, including a record 57 in 2022 alone.
Four of SpaceX’s orbital missions were flown by the powerful Falcon Gravia, which uses three modified Falcon stages.
It will be time for SpaceX to celebrate its 200-mission milestone. The company is scheduled to release a large batch of its own Starlink satellites launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday (Dec. 17).
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8:30 pm EST on December 16 with news of a successful satellite deployment.
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