SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Lifts Off, Launches Inmarsat-5 F4 Successfully

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SpaceX launched heaviest ever Inmarsat fourth communications satellite today (Photo: SpaceX)

SpaceX launched its sixth Falcon 9 rocket in 2017 with Inmarsat-5 F4 communications satellite into orbit but not attempting recovery of the used rocket after its takeoff. The launch took off at 7:21PM ET from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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Inmarsat-5 F4 (I-5 F4), built by Boeing at a cost of $1.6 billion was designed to augment the power of Global Xpress network, which provides high-speed broadband connectivity across the world. It has already three satellites in its fleet, and the new Inmarsat-5 F4 will provide the first ever global Ka-band service from the network operator. It was meant to provide additional capacity for Global Xpress users on land, at sea and in the air, said the compnay.

Inmarsat-5 F4 measures bigger than a double-decker bus and weighs nearly 13,500 pounds, making it the heaviest single probe ever lifted off for a very high orbit called Geostationary Transfer Orbit which is 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface.

As the Falcon 9 requires huge propellant during launch, little fuel will be leftover for a re-entry mission, thus abandoning SpaceX plans to reuse the rocket. The satellite INMARSAT-5 F4 will join three additional I-5 probes already in orbit, making up the Global Xpress constellation for Inmarsat.

 

The Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has a long history dating back to the early 1960s when it supported the Apollo program, the first Saturn V launch (Apollo 4), and many subsequent Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 in July 1969. In the late 1970s, LC-39A was modified to support Space Shuttle launches from 1981 to 2011.

In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA to use the Launch Complex 39A and upgraded the pad’s structures and ground systems to support launches of both commercial and crew missions on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.

Mission Timeline: (approximate)

COUNTDOWN

Hour/Min/Sec Events
– 01:13:00 Launch Conductor takes launch readiness poll
– 01:10:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
– 00:45:00 LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
– 00:07:00 Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
– 00:02:00 Range Control Officer (USAF) verifies range is go for launch
– 00:01:30 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:01:00 Flight computer commanded to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01:00 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
– 00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
– 00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff

LAUNCH AND SATELLITE DEPLOYMENT

Hour/Min/Sec Events
00:01:17 Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:45 1st stage engine shutdown/main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:49 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:56 Second stage engine starts
00:03:35 Fairing deploy
00:08:38 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:26:59 2nd stage engine restarts
00:27:55 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
00:31:48 Inmarsat-5 F4 satellite deploy

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