SpaceX has successfully deployed the GovSat-1 to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The satellite is the result of a partnership between the government of Luxembourg and telecommunications giant SES and will be used in service of secure communications.
GovSat-1 launched aboard a Falcon 9 from the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch vehicle lifted off at 21:27 GMT (16:27 EST) on January 31 with the GoveSat-1 payload being deployed 32 minutes after launch.
The Falcon 9 first-stage booster was flight-proven having being launched once before. The booster previously served the launch of the National Reconnaissance Office’s classified NROL-47 spy satellite from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 in May 2017.
As a Block 3 variant of the booster, no recovery attempt was made following the launch. However, SpaceX took the opportunity to test a “very high retrothrust landing in water”. The test utilized three of the Falcon 9’s Merlin engines to slow the vehicle before its splashdown in the Atlantic. Although the manoeuvre slowed the vehicle decent down considerably, the launch provider had not expected it survive. However, a few hours after the launch, SpaceX founder Elon Musk Tweeted a photo of the first-stage booster bobbing on the surface of the ocean having miraculously survived.
This rocket was meant to test very high retrothrust landing in water so it didn’t hurt the droneship, but amazingly it has survived. We will try to tow it back to shore. pic.twitter.com/hipmgdnq16
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 31, 2018
GovSat-1 had initially been scheduled to launch on January 30. However, a 40% chance of favourable weather and a second stage sensor malfunction meant that the launch was scrubbed and rescheduled for the next day.
The successful launch of GovSat-1 should hopefully put to bed any concerns with the Falcon 9 that may have arisen after the loss of Zuma. Critics of the launch provider were quick to take the opportunity to question the vehicle’s reliability. The flawless launch and deployment of GoveSat-1 as scheduled does, however, appear to exonerate the Falcon 9 of all culpability.
Image Credit: SpaceX