After over an hour of delay, SpaceX's Falcon 9 successfully launched early morning Monday, Sept. 10, carrying the Telstar 18 VANTAGE satellite to orbit.
The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida amid thick clouds and rain brought about by Hurricane Florence currently lashing in the Atlantic Ocean.
A few minutes later, Falcon 9's first-stage booster landed on a drone ship called "Of Course I Still Love You" to be reused in future missions.
Telstar 18 Launched Into Orbit
Telstar 18 VANTAGE is a telecommunication satellite from the Canada-based company Telesat. It is one of the heaviest commercial communications satellites ever launched into orbit at 15,564 pounds. Its twin, the Telstar 19 satellite launched in July, currently holds the record at 15,600 pounds (7,076 kilograms).
The massive satellite will provide coverage over the Asia Pacific area from the geostationary orbit about 22,000 miles (or about 36,000 kilometers) over the equator. It will beam broadband communications services to Southeast Asia, Mongolia, Australia, and New Zealand.
"Telstar 18 VANTAGE is a high throughput, highly flexible, state-of-the-art satellite that will provide a significant competitive advantage to customers serving the demanding requirements of broadcast, enterprise and government users throughout Asia," said Dan Goldberg, President and CEO of Telesat, in a statement to the press. "We are pleased to be making this important addition to our global satellite fleet and, moreover, pleased to continue our long and successful relationship with APSTAR, a leading Asian operator with whom we have closely cooperated for over a decade."
After deployment (32 minutes after liftoff), Telstar 18 VANTAGE boosted itself into circular geostationary orbit over the equator using its onboard hydrazine-fueled engine and electric thrusters. It will eventually reposition itself over the Asia-Pacific region over the next few weeks.
The new satellite will replace the Telstar 18 satellite launched into orbit in 2004. It is expected to be in operation for 15 years, SpaceX said in its press release.
Another Successful Landing
The mission to bring Telstar 18 VANTAGE to orbit used the new Block 5 Falcon 9, the final iteration of the rocket according to founder Elon Musk.
The launch on early Monday morning marks SpaceX's first successful Falcon 9 launch in over a month and its 60th since the rocket debuted in 2010. The commercial rocket company hopes to eventually relaunch the same rocket within 24 hours.
The next SpaceX launch is scheduled on Oct. 7 at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to bring Argentina's SAOCOM 1A Earth-observation satellite into orbit.