SpaceX sends EchoStar satellite into orbit after 2-day delay

The rocket will bring an EchoStar XXIII communications satellite into the geostationary transfer orbit.

Climbing into a clear night sky, a Falcon 9 rocket soared into space early Thursday with the EchoStar 23 commercial communications satellite from launch pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The EchoStar 23 satellite, manufactured by SSL, will provide broadcast satellite services alongside EchoStar's 25 other satellites.

With its more powerful rockets in place, SpaceX won't have to choose between getting the payload into a higher orbit and recovering the first stage hardware. The $96.5 million contract is the second of nine launch contracts the Air Force plans to put up for bid throughout 2017. One is that the EchoStar 23 is a heavy satellite.

In between the two launches for private companies, SpaceX will send another cargo mission, its eleventh, to ISS, possibly on April 9.

SpaceX hosted a comprehensive webcast with the video being supported by experts input during the duration of the launch.

That's typical for expendable rockets, but over the past year, SpaceX's landing attempts have become so routine that what used to be typical is now worthy of note. Contracts for military launches include satellites that let troops communicate on battlefields and are estimated to be valued at about $70 billion through 2030, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. With 27 engines, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket ever besides the Saturn V. The rocket took off at 2 am (0600 GMT) carrying the EchoStar XXIII.

SpaceX is aiming to lower the cost of access to space by retrieving and reusing its boosters.

Putting on a spectacular nighttime show, the Falcon 9 smoothly accelerated as it arced to the East over the Atlantic Ocean trailing a long jet of brilliant exhaust visible for miles around. Its last mission was about three weeks ago, when it launched supplies for NASA to the International Space Station. But the company hopes to change that later this month.

  • Zachary Reyes