SpaceX Rocks Launch Of Merah Putih Satellite, Acing First Reflight Of Falcon 9 ‘Block 5’ Booster

Less than nine minutes after takeoff, the rocket's first stage performed an impeccable touch down, landing on a SpaceX drone ship in the Atlantic.

The launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carrying Indonesia’s Merah Putih satellite to geostationary orbit.
John Raoux / AP Images

Less than nine minutes after takeoff, the rocket's first stage performed an impeccable touch down, landing on a SpaceX drone ship in the Atlantic.

Another amazing success for SpaceX. Bright and early this morning, the company launched a recycled “Block 5” booster for the very first time, proving the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket stands up to the task of reusability.

The mission took off at 1:18 a.m. EDT (05:18 GMT) today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, successfully deploying Indonesian satellite Merah Putih into geostationary orbit above our planet, more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator, Spaceflight Now reports.

From there, the Merah Putih satellite, operated by PT Telkom Indonesia, will provide a wide range of telecommunication services to the 17,000 islands of the Indonesian archipelago.

“Merah Putih, which stands for the red and white colors of the Indonesian flag, will carry an all C-band payload capable of supporting a wide range of applications, including providing mobile broadband across Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The satellite is expected to have a service lifetime of 15 or more years,” SpaceX detailed in the mission description.

Today’s launch marks an impressive achievement for the private space company, which can now boast the first reflight of a “Block 5” booster, inaugurated less than three months ago with another satellite launch.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, SpaceX debuted its upgraded Falcon 9 booster on May 11 with the launch of Bangladesh’s first communications satellite. The very same booster, B1046, has now soared to the skies for a second time, carrying the Merah Putih spacecraft into orbit.

The launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carrying Indonesia's Merah Putih satellite to geostationary orbit.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral with Indonesia’s Merah Putih communications satellite on board. John Raoux / AP Images

This is the fourth orbital mission of the new booster model, which was also used to ferry Canada’s Telstar 19 VANTAGE satellite and a payload of 10 Iridium satellites on July 22 and July 25, respectively.

The excitement began as early as yesterday afternoon when SpaceX tweeted a photo of the Falcon 9 and its satellite payload poised up for today’s launch.

“Falcon 9 and Merah Putih are vertical on Pad 40 in Florida. Weather is 80 percent favorable for the two-hour launch window, which opens Tuesday, August 7 at 1:18 a.m. EST, 5:18 a.m. UTC,” the company wrote on Twitter.

The launch went on smoothly and saw the first stage of the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket separate around 2.5 minutes after liftoff. While the second stage of the Falcon 9 continued its ascent with the Merah Putih satellite on board, the booster returned to Earth, performing an impeccable touchdown less than nine minutes after the launch, notes Space.com.

Just like on its first-ever May 11 flight, the first stage made an ocean landing, touching down on the “Of Course I Still Love You” SpaceX drone ship stationed in the Atlantic, just a few hundred miles off the coast of Florida.

Some 20 minutes later, SpaceX confirmed on Twitter that the 12,800-pound (5,800 kilograms) Merah Putih satellite had been deployed to a geostationary transfer orbit, bringing the mission to a resounding success. Check out the video below to watch the two stages of the Falcon 9 do their magic during this morning’s launch.

According to Space News, the “Block 5” booster could see its third launch later this year, provided it passes post-landing tests and inspections.

“Ironically, we need to take it apart to confirm that it does not need to be taken apart,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said during a May 10 press conference before the inaugural flight of the “Block 5” booster.

“This rocket probably won’t refly for a couple of months, but by late this year we should be seeing substantial reflight of ‘Block 5’ vehicles, probably with ‘Block 5’ boosters seeing their third, maybe their fourth reflight,” Musk pointed out.

More powerful than its “Block 4” predecessor, the upgraded booster was designed to fly at least 10 times without being refurbished between launch and landing and should be able to last for as many as 100 flights with just minor maintenance, the Inquisitr previously reported.