SpaceX launches communications satellite as Falcon 9 nears end of life

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils the Falcon Heavy rocket at the National Press Club in Washington,DC

Eastern from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, during the scheduled backup window.

Thursday, sharp at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT), the Falcon 9 rocket, carrying commercial television broadcast satellite ignited and blasted off from the launch pad and turned towards east and roared skyward on top of 1.7 million pounds of driving force.

While that launch is still two years away, SpaceX has a lot going on since resuming operations in January, following an over four-month hiatus caused by the explosion of one of its Falcon 9 rockets September 1.

This marks SpaceX's second successful launch from Launch Complex 39A, the launch complex that was built in the 1960s to support the Apollo program and then later the space shuttle program from the 1980s to 2011.

The demands of lofting the 6-ton EchoStar 23 spacecraft left the rocket's first stage without reserve fuel to attempt a powered descent back through the atmosphere and landing. With 27 engines, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket ever besides the Saturn V.

During the launch, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off the satellite into a designated geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

If all goes well, SpaceX hopes to launch an SES communications satellite around March 27, the first flight of a "used" Falcon 9 first stage. Elon also said that the missions like EchoStar 23 would be launched on Falcon Heavy. That vehicle is essentially 3 Falcon 9 boosters strapped together and according to Musk, it will be the most powerful rocket in operation by "a factor of two". Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) was awarded a contract for Global Positioning System (GPS) III Launch Services. Future payloads of this nature will go up on the improved Falcon 9 Block 5 or the untested Falcon Heavy rocket. Narrators explain the stages of the EchoStar XXII launch as it happens to make it easier to watch and understand.

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