SpaceX launches Indonesian satellite and kicks off new round for rocket reusability

Pat Wise
August 9, 2018

Furthermore, while SpaceX's competitors have focused only on recovery of the first stage launcher, SpaceX has set a target date of 2022 for development a fully recoverable 150-ton payload rocket (including second stage), which would place them several years ahead of Chinese firms, if they are successful.

Less than three months later, at 1:18 a.m. Tuesday, the same first-stage booster fired nine Merlin engines to roar into darkness from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 40 with 1.7 million pounds of thrust. The spacecraft - whose name translates as "red and white", a reference to the colors of the Indonesian flag - will become part of the network run by PT Telkom Indonesia, the nation's largest telecommunications provider.

Based on SSL's 1300-series satellite platform, Merah Putih carries 60 C-band transponders with coverage across the Indonesian archipelago, and other parts of South and Southeast Asia.

SpaceX is aiming for another commercial satellite launch from the Cape later this month - potentially its fourth launch in as many weeks.

Eight minutes into the flight, the booster swooped down from space to its second tail-first landing on legs on the deck of SpaceX's modified barge, the "Of Course I Still Love You", stationed 400 miles down range in the Atlantic Ocean.

Reportedly, SpaceX has boasted that the new Block 5 first stages should be able to launch 10 times with just inspections between landing and liftoff, and 100 times or more with some minor refurbishment involved.

Today's launch was the first time a recycled Block 5 booster had been reused following the improved rocket's maiden launch on May 11, 2018.

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The Merah Putih satellite then was released into an elliptical transfer orbit, the normal first step in getting a communications satellite into its intended orbit 22,300 miles above the equator.

SpaceX's goal is the rapid reusability of its rockets to drive down the cost of launches.

The new satellite will replace the aging Telkom 1 satellite, which has been in operation since 1999. After extensive testing and checkout, the satellite will be put into service.

The glare of a Falcon 9 rocket launch lights up the night at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SpaceX is planning around 30 missions in 2018, up from a record of 18 in 2017.

If launch remains set for August 23, liftoff is scheduled for a window opening at 11:33 p.m. EDT (0333 GMT on August 24).

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