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SpaceX Launches Largest Ever Payload Atop Falcon 9: Here Are The Details

17 May 2017, 7:06 am EDT By Steve Bowman Tech Times
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SpaceX successfully launches its 14th Falcon 9 rocket

On Monday, May 15, SpaceX successfully launched its heaviest ever satellite using the Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The Inmarsat payload carrying launch is the second one in two weeks for the Elon Musk-owned company.

The Inmarsat-5 F4 satellite will remain in the Earth's orbit to provide high speed Ka-band relay stations to aircrafts, offshore ships, and to government and commercial users all over the world.

The Inmarsat-5

Monday's launch was the fourth broadband satellite from Inmarsat in its $1.6 billion Global Xpress constellation. The other three Boeing-build satellites have already been launched previously. Over the next 90 days, the Inmarsat-5 will use its boosters to maintain its orbit above the Earth at an altitude of 22,300 miles.

"That is the background of Inmarsat, mobile applications, so this constellation, and the entire network around it, has been designed to be optimized for mobile users," Michele Franci, Chief Technology Officer at Inmarsat, revealed.

The fifth generation satellites will ensure speeds of a maximum 50 megabits for downlink and upto 5 megabits for uplink for customers on the sea, in the air, or on the land.

How SpaceX Handled The Launch

The mission initiated when the Falcon 9's engine ignited and the rocket achieved lift off. After a flight of around 2 minutes and 45 seconds, the first-stage boosters of the Falcon 9 shut down and disengaged. However, this time around, SpaceX did not plan to recover the first-stage rocket.

The Inmarsat-5 weighs around 13,417 pounds, which is the heaviest payload the Falcon 9 rocket has ever delivered. To fly the heavy satellite into space, all the fuel in the first-stage rocket had to be used up. Without any fuel it would have been futile to try and land the first-stage rocket. This is why SpaceX technicians sacrificed the first-stage rocket this time around.

Out of the six launches this year, SpaceX managed to recover the first-stage rocket four times. Monday's launch was just the second time in the year that the first stage could not be recovered.

Nonetheless, after the first stage disengaged, the second stage boosters fired up twice to ensure that the payload reached the desired destination.

"It's been a great afternoon and evening. All you can ask for today," SpaceX mission commentator John Insprucker noted.

SpaceX is planning to launch the dragon spacecraft on June 1, which will carry important cargo to the International Space Station. The agency is then scheduled to launch a Bulgarian Satellite on June 15 and also an Intelsat relay station by month end.

The pace at which SpaceX is launching missions indicates how proficient the company has becomes at these launches. All it needs to do now is to get the Falcon Heavy rocket ready as soon as possible.

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