San Francisco: Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. launched its second rocket of the year, hauling three payloads including an Indonesian satellite and an Israeli lunar lander.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Thursday at 8:45 p.m. local time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX also landed the rocket’s first stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean minutes after the launch.
While most rocket launches carry one payload, “ride-sharing” and secondary loads are becoming far more common in the industry. Nusantara Satu is Indonesia’s first high-throughput satellite that will improve Internet connectivity in the region, according to a SpaceX press kit. The Israeli craft Beresheet, which competed in the Google Lunar XPrize, will travel to the moon after deployment using its own power.
The third payload is an experimental small spacecraft from Air Force Research Laboratory for a one-year mission.
SpaceX set a company record last year with 21 launches for customers including commercial satellite operators and the US military, and Thursday’s launch is its 70th total.
The more important milestone that’s a focus for this year is SpaceX’s first flight with humans on board. The company is competing with Boeing Co. to be the first to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program.
SpaceX’s first uncrewed demonstration flight, known as Demo-1, is slated to take place at 2:48 a.m. ET on Saturday, 2 March. NASA has scheduled a mission overview and flight readiness review briefing for Friday, 22 February, at about 6 p.m. ET. -Bloomberg