SpaceX this afternoon launched a Falcon Heavy rocket with the Arabsat-6A communications satellite from Cape Kennedy Space Center. This was the second launch of a FH but this time all 3 cores of the FH were the most up-to-date Block 5 versions. And all 3 boosters successfully landed. The 2 side boosters landed back on pads at Cape Canaveral while the center landed on a floating platform at sea.
A clip from the SpaceX webcast showing the liftoff:
Here is the segment of the webcast with the return flights and landings of the boosters:
After a coast period, the upper stage engine fired for about 85 seconds and 5 minutes later Arabsat-6A was deployed:
Successful deployment of Arabsat-6A to geosynchronous transfer orbit confirmed—completing Falcon Heavy’s first commercial mission! pic.twitter.com/KeKTP99xvv
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 11, 2019
Contact was later made with the satellite after the deployment.
The power of the FH sent the satellite into a long ellipse with an apogee of 90,000 km (55,500 mi) beyond Earth. The satellite will fire its on-board engine to circularize the orbit and bring it to its assigned slot in geostationary orbit (35,786 km above the equator). The initial extra high orbit will reduce the amount of fuel that the satellite needs to reach its spot as compared to a launch with, say, a Falcon 9 rocket. This extra fuel will give the satellite a few more years of operation since it needs to occasionally fire the engine to maintain its position.
The next Falcon Heavy launch is expected to lift off in June (presumably with the same two side boosters as this flight). The mission will be for the U.S. Air Force and is referred to as STP-2 (Space Test Program-2). STP-2 will carry several military and scientific research satellites including the Planetary Society’s LightSail-2 solar sail: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Flies Again; LightSail 2 Is Next! | The Planetary Society