SpaceX launched its second rocket late in the evening eastern time yesterday. The mission saw the Falcon 9 rocket launch the SES 18 and SES 19 satellites for the European connectivity firm SES S.A. The launch was SpaceX’s 19th mission of the year, and it took place a little over four hours after another Falcon 9 booster had launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in Flordia with a batch of 51 Starlink satellites. However, unlike the Starlink mission, this placed the spacecraft in a higher orbit, with the satellite deployment occurring close to forty minutes post-launch.
SpaceX Launches 218th Mission To Date and Lands Falcon 9 For 180th Time
Yesterday’s SES launch was SpaceX’s ninth launch for SES, as it continued a historic partnership between the two companies. As SpaceX’s presenter, Kate Tice, pointed out during the launch live stream, SES was SpaceX’s first customer that entrusted the Falcon 9 with a precious commercial satellite that was launched to a synchronous orbit. It was also the first company to launch a satellite on a reused Falcon 9.
The Falcon 9 launched the SES 18 and SES 19 satellites to a geosynchronous transfer orbit, as it lifted off right on time at 7:38 pm local time from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Since the launch took place in the evening, the background of the Falcon 9 rocket turned black as all of its nine Merlin 1D engines fired up for launch.
SpaceX’s latest launch for SES marked its ninth mission for the satellite firm. The new satellites launched today will cover the U.S. and provide users with fifth-generation (5G) internet connectivity. Out of these, the SES 18 is slated to start operations in June and replace an existing satellite in SES’s constellation.
The other, SES 19, will be co-located with the SES 22 satellite launched at 135 degrees West meridian by SpaceX last year and was the firm’s previous launch for the European satellite company. In satellite communications, colocation refers to placing two satellites close together in orbit so that they appear as a single unit to the ground stations. Yesterday’s launch was the final SES launch to repurpose the C band spectrum in the U.S.
During the launch, as the rocket lifted off, on-ground cameras continued to track its flight. They captured the rocket traveling at whopping 8,221 kilometers per hour just as its main engines shut off and the first and second stages prepared to separate from each other. Then, both the stages were caught separating and racing away from each other at an altitude of more than 87 kilometers. Finally, some of the best visuals of the day came as the second stage’s fairings deployed.
These fairings, which measure 40 feet in length and 17 feet in diameter (when joined together), were visible as tiny dots in the sky alongside the first and the second stages. SpaceX used one of the halves for the third time and the other for the seventh time. The second stage landed close to the nine-minute mark, completing its sixth landing.