SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches Arabsat-6A as its first commercial payload

Mindy Sparks
April 12, 2019

SpaceX sent the Arabsat-6A communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit April 11, completing the Falcon Heavy rocket's first commercial launch.

Falcon Heavy vaulted a pricey communications satellite into orbit for Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat.

The 23-story-tall Heavy, which previously launched Musk's cherry red Tesla roadster to space in a 2018 debut test flight, blasted off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center carrying its first customer payload.

Roughly three minutes after clearing the pad, Heavy's two side boosters separated from the core rocket for a synchronized landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, sparking boisterous cheers from SpaceX engineers in the company's Hawthorne, California headquarters. But the middle booster missed a seaborne platform it was created to land on, and instead splashed into the ocean. A huge cloud of exhaust went up from the three Falcon 9 rocket cores that were yoked together to provide more than 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust.

Balkheyour said Arabsat chose the Falcon Heavy in order to extend the lifespan of the Arabsat-6A satellite beyond the 15 years a geostationary communications satellite is typically created to last. Falcon Heavy only has five missions on its manifest so far.

Privately owned SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, was founded in 2002 by Musk, who is also a co-founder of electric auto maker Tesla Inc. The roads were also jammed for Wednesday night's launch attempt, which was scuttled by high wind.


Because this was an upgraded version of the rocket with unproven changes, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk cautioned in advance that things might go wrong. The company selected Falcon Heavy in September for a mission anticipated in late 2017 or 2018.

SpaceX said it would try again Thursday evening.

Musk's SpaceX, working to prove the flight-worthiness of its rocket fleet one mission at a time, aims to clinch one-third of all US National Security Space missions - coveted contracts that are worth billions of dollars.

SpaceX typically launches Falcon 9 rockets.

SpaceX plans to refly the Falcon Heavy side boosters from the Arabsat-6A mission on its next Falcon Heavy mission, the U.S. Air Force Space Test Program-2 rideshare mission.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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