Today Falcon-9 FT rocket bet own record of payload delivered to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. Echostar-23 communications satellite with mass of 5.5 t was launched today from Kennedy Space Center LC-39A.
SpaceX managed to perform successful launch with record mass of the payload under fairing of Falcon-9 FT. Weighing 5.5 t Echostar-23 communications satellite was delivered to Geostationary Transfer Orbit in the early morning hours. Due the designated orbit and mass of the satellite, SpaceX resigned from attempt of landing of first stage of Falcon-9 FT.
Launch was performed at 06:00 UTC from recently opened LC-39A launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. It was second launch of SpaceX rocket from LC-39A in the history and 36th launch of Falcon rocket in total.
Rocket was prepared to launch already before first attempt to launch performed on March 14. Unfortunately poor weather and strong winds forced decision to scrub launch and move it to Thursday. Today it was colder comparing to Tuesday, but in fact weather was perfect for launch and specialists started fueling procedure at T-70′. After fueling and tests rocket was switched to internal power at T-15′ – after another 8 minutes pre valves were opened to let super chilled propellant to cool turbopumps. At T-2′ supporting arm was retracted and punctually at 06:00 UTC rocket begun its mission with ignition of nine Merlin-1 D engines and spectacular liftoff. At T+20″ rocket performed necessary maneuvers to set course to East from Cape Canaveral. As usual at T+1′ rocket reached sound barrier. At T+3′ first stage was cut off and jettisoned from the upper stage. One minute later payload fairing separated from the rocket and at T+5′ single Merlin engine was already working nominally since start at T+3′. At T+9′ upper stage cut off its engine after reaching preliminary parking orbit to resume burn at T+26′. Finally after flying over Africa, Falcon started its Merlin engine for 60 seconds at T+26′. Finally at T+34′ Echostar-23 was deployed and started its mission lasting for 15 years.
Echostar-23 is communications satellite designed to operate from GEO orbit for 15 years. It was built by SS/L with utilization of SSL-1300 bus. Satellite is equipped with 32 Ku band transponders to cover with range South America, especially Brazil. Onboard system and payload is powered by onboard battery and two foldable solar arrays. Satellite will reach its orbital position with four SPT-100 plasma thrusters. After performing series of orbital test it will enter the service and extend constellation of Echostar satellites later this year.