SpaceX delivers GovSat-1 to orbit

Delia Watkins
February 2, 2018

SpaceX has successfully tested a high-thrust ocean landing using the Falcon 9 rocket which launched the GovSat-1 mission yesterday, Space.com reported.

The rocket's first stage had flown once before, helping launch the NROL-76 spy satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office back in May 2017. As per the report, the GovSat-1 spacecraft was previously scheduled to launch on 30th January, but due to some technical error Space, X postponed the launch for 24 hours for replacing a sensor in the rocket's upper stage.

New versions of the Falcon 9 first stage, which should begin flying soon, will be capable of launching 10 or more times, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.

At the moment it's unclear what will be done with the surviving rocket, but depending on its condition it could find itself on another trip - or float proudly in SpaceX folklore for years to come. Musk wrote on Twitter that SpaceX would retrieve it and try bringing it back to land.

Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, said, "Luxembourg has always been a pioneer in the space industry and has a long tradition in innovative partnerships with private aerospace companies".

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Especially for a first-time launch test like this, there are any one of several things that can go wrong, and Musk has wisely cautioned that the launch could be a failure and that Falcon Heavy may not achieve orbit at all. Perhaps the rocket descended such that the engines and lower end of the booster were submerged, before the 40-meter tall first stage tipped over-gently. Normally, during the last part of a Falcon 9 landing, the central engine alone fires to slow the rocket for its final descent.

Next launch from Florida's Space Coast will be a major milestone for SpaceX when they will launch the Falcon Heavy on February 6.

As a result, SpaceX appears to have continued a trend of exploiting flight test opportunities to the greatest extent practicable by tasking B1032 with an experimental landing attempt. It also has three times more engines.

The Falcon Heavy has yet to leave the ground, but SpaceX plans to change that. Using more engines would be more fuel-efficient, as every second less the rocket is fighting against gravity, the less fuel it's using. Indeed, in conjunction with the Orion capsule that NASA is presently developing with the intent of transporting astronauts to the moon and eventually to Mars, NASA has also been commissioned to develop the Space Launch System (SLS), a series of super heavy-lift launch vehicles that will be able to carry out these and other tasks.

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