SpaceX launches GovSat-1 with previously flown Falcon 9 booster


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Wednesday carrying a Luxembourg-made communications satellite. An SES spokesperson stated, "GovSat-1 was designed for dual use to support both defense and civil-security applications, including mobile and fixed communications". Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit.

The rocket's first-stage booster - which also flew last spring - was not recovered this time. The rocket's first outing had taken a US spy satellite, NROL-76, into orbit. It was only meant to test a "very high retrothrust landing" for the sake of protecting the drone ship and was expected to meet an untimely end, but it appeared to have survived largely intact. According to a report from The Verge, the company will likely need the Florida-based drone ship in order to be prepared for next week's planned launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

The LuxGovSat a public-private joint venture between the Luxembourg government and Luxembourg-based telecommunications company SES, in part to fulfill that nation's growing defense obligations to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The liftoff at 4:25 p.m. EST (2125 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station followed a technical glitch that prompted a 24-hour flight delay. It could be less costly and challenging to recover boosters this way than via controlled descent, after all - provided they can consistently come back in decent shape. "GovSat and the launch of GovSat-1 is another step towards strengthening the position of Luxembourg as a key player in the aerospace sector, and contributes to a diversification of our economy".

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Producing more than 5 million pounds of thrust, the rocket would become the most powerful rocket available today. Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and reliability of Falcon 9. SpaceX said Falcon 9 performed as planned during the January 7 mission, an assertion that shifted focus to Northrop Grumman, which provided the payload and its dispenser.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of and owner of The Washington Post newspaper, said in February that his private space firm Blue Origin expects to begin crewed test flights of the New Shepard, the company's flagship rocket, next year and begin flying paying passengers as early as 2018.

Wednesday's mission was SpaceX's first launch since the classified Zuma mission ended with questions about whether the payload reached its orbit.