July 22, 2018 – written by Tim Dodd the Everyday Astronaut
It was a picture perfect launch for SpaceX’s second Block 5 Falcon 9 which took off at 4:50 UTC (12:50 Eastern local time). This mission was extra impressive as it gave the newly upgraded Falcon 9 a chance to truly flex its muscles by lofting the heaviest commercial satellite ever made, the Telstar 19 VANTAGE.
Check out my live coverage of the launch and join me next time live on my YouTube channel!
Even more impressive is the fact that despite the satellite weighing 7,075 KGs (15,600 pounds), and heading out to an exhausting geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), the Falcon 9 still had enough margins to successfully land the first stage (spoiler… whoops)…
The 9 merlin engines that power the first stage burned for 2 minutes and 30 seconds before their planned shutdown known as MECO (Main Engine Cut Off). Shortly after the Falcon 9 pushed the second stage clear of the first stage for stage separation. Then it lit up the second stage engine, the Vacuum optimized Merlin 1D engine and the second stage continued onto orbit.
For the next 5 and a half minutes or so the upper stage continued to burn to place itself and the attached payload into its temporary parking orbit. At the same, after coasting up to its highest point or apogee, the first stage fell back down range following its ballistic trajectory towards SpaceX’s autonomous space port drone ship. After its reentry burn to scrub off velocity so it could survive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, it continued to home in on the landing platform. Then it performed its final landing burn placing it nice and safely on the deck of the ship so it can be recovered and reflown in the future.
If you want to know more about the recovery and reusability of the Falcon 9 Block 5, check out this article (or video) that goes into the topic really in depth.
After a 19 minute coast phase, the Falcon 9 relit its vacuum Merlin engine on the upper stage to kick the payload up into its geostationary transfer orbit. Despite a funky period of what seemed like uncertainty if it was a successful burn, we got confirmation a few minutes later that everything went perfectly!
Fast forward another 6 minutes and the Falcon 9 let go of the Telstar 19V satellite, marking the 58th Falcon 9 mission for SpaceX, the 64th overall, and the 13th successful launch of SpaceX in 2018.
Be sure and join me Wednesday morning bright and early for SpaceX launching Iridium 7 from the west coast on my YouTube channel starting at 11:10 UTC (6:39 a.m. central) where I can help answer your questions live! We might eve see the first successful recovery of the fairing! YES!