SpaceX is prepared to loft a hefty communications satellite into orbit tonight (Sept. 9) and then attempt to land a rocket’s first stage on a drone ship at sea.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Telstar 18 Vantage communications satellite, also known as Apstar 5C, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, during a launch window that starts at 11:28 p.m. EDT (0328 GMT on Sept. 10). You can watch it online here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX. In case of delays, the launch window stretches for 4 hours.
The satellite, which will operate as a partnership between the Canadian company Telesat and the Hong Kong-based company APT Satellite Co. Ltd., will provide broadcast, enterprise and government communications services over the Pacific Ocean, stretching from Hawaii across to India and Pakistan, according to a statement from Telesat . The satellite weighs in at a hefty 15,564 lbs. (7,060 kilograms), according to Spaceflight Now.
SpaceX will use one of its newest Falcon 9 rockets, the Block 5, for the launch — though, unlike for its previous Telstar launch in July, the company is lofting a new, rather than previously flown, rocket first stage. After the launch, SpaceX plans to attempt to land the stage on the company’s East Coast drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You.
SpaceX successfully test-fired the rocket’s engines on Sept. 5 at the launchpad, Launch Complex 40, but then the launch was delayed by 24 hours to complete preflight checkouts, SpaceX officials wrote in a tweet Thursday (Sept. 6). As of Friday (Sept. 7), the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron gave a 60 percent chance of favorable weather; the main risks are the possibility of thick cloud layers and cumulous clouds whose tops reach freezing temperatures.
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