SpaceX’s latest launch took place on Sunday, and the results were stunning. The launch of a Falcon 9 Block 5 vehicle signaled a new step in the quest to make rockets as reusable as possible, with the blazing trail illuminating the night sky at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida during the company’s 13th launch this year.
The mission saw a Telstar 19 VANTAGE satellite sent into geostationary transfer orbit. The rocket lifted off at 1:50 a.m. Eastern time from Launch Complex 40, with the satellite deployed 32 minutes after liftoff. The first stage booster later landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The four-hour launch window had a 60 percent favorability rating in the hours prior to liftoff.
SpaceX shared a number of photos of the launch through its Flickr photo page:
The droneship deployment is notable as later this week on July 25, the company plans to deploy its other ship Just Read the Instructions as part of the launch of Iridium NEXT’s seventh mission from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
This is only the second time that both ships have been deployed at once, and represents the fast turnaround of reusability-focused missions.
The droneships can take between seven and 10 days to move to the landing point and back again, meaning this dual deployment is likely to become a more frequent sight.
The “Block 5” Falcon 9 model is a key step on SpaceX’s mission to reuse rockets as much as possible. The model first debuted on May 7 with the launch of the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite.
Changes include new heat shields with increased durability and reinforced legs, which are aimed at reusing the rocket 10 times with just inspections between launches, and up to 100 times with refurbishments. Eventually, SpaceX aims for turnaround times of 24 hours, down from its current turnaround record of over two months.
SpaceX also shared footage from its webcast for viewers looking to watch the rocket launch as it happened:
The next launch will see SpaceX launch 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites into orbit, which will also see the deployment of an upgraded Mr Steven fairing-catching ship.