SpaceX eighth launch of the year is smooth, ninth coming on Sunday

Allan Goodman
June 24, 2017

The company has been contracted to launch BulgariaSat-1, the country's first communications satellite created to transmit television programming to the Balkans and southeastern Europe.

Eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff with the almost 8,000-pound BulgariaSat-1 spacecraft, the Falcon 9's first stage will attempt to land on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, an event not visible from the shore.

The launch window opens at 2:10 p.m. ET and remains open for two hours.

The landing was challenging because the rocket had to push BulgariaSat-1 to a high orbit, wherein the first stage experienced more force and heat during reentry than any other Falcon 9. BulgariaSat-1 will provide reliable satellite communications solutions to broadcast, telecoms, corporate and government customers.

The rocket carrying the BulgariaSat-1 satellite into orbit took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida shortly after noon. The satellite will be released high above the Earth and will continue to orbit. SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Musk has championed reusability - once derided as a insane idea - to drive down launch costs and win a growing roster of customers, including the United States military.

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The private corporation originally planned to launch the BulgariaSat-1 satellite on June 19, but weather conditions were not favorable.

Despite that warning, the first stage of the rocket settled safely onto the aquatic landing pad. And as costs come down, more companies gain access to the growing commercial space industry. The company hopes to turn around first-stage boosters for reflight nearly immediately, as it works to expand affordable commercial space access. The company aims to reduce spaceflight costs as much as possible: A Falcon 9 costs $60 million, according to Musk, plus an extra $200,000 to fuel. That mission will be conducted with a previously un-used Falcon 9 rocket.

Musk said during a news conference in March, after the successful launch, that he wanted to launch as many as six previously flown Falcon 9 rockets by the end of the year.

Falcon 9 will launch the Bulgarian satellite from LC-39A pad, home of the historic Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.

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