On its third try, SpaceX delivers a heavy satellite to high orbit

During its third launch attempt from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, the rocket company successfully delivered the 6.7-ton Intelsat 35e communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. The mission went off nearly flawlessly. Remarkably, it was the company’s third flight in 12 days, and fourth in 32 days.

After a full review of its launchpad systems and the Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX has declared that it is ready to make a third attempt to launch a heavy communications satellite. The launch window for the Intelsat 35e mission opens at 7:38pm ET on Wednesday (00:38am UK), and it will remain so for about an hour. The launch-time weather at Kennedy Space Center is forecast to be excellent—with a 90 percent chance of favorable conditions.

SpaceX tried on 02 July 2017 and 03 July 2017 to launch the satellite, but both times an unspecified technical issue with the rocket’s guidance, navigation, and control system led the rocket’s flight computer to stop the countdown within 10 seconds of launch time. The rocket company then stood down an attempt on July 4 so it could investigate the problem and has apparently resolved the issue. But we won’t know for sure until the countdown this evening.

With a mass of 6,761kg, the Intelsat 35e communications satellite is the heaviest payload SpaceX has ever launched toward geostationary orbit, about 36,000km above the Earth’s surface. For this reason, the rocket will not have enough fuel reserves to attempt a safe return to Earth—even to a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. This booster, therefore, will be expended.

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