SpaceX successfully launches newest reusable rocket

SpaceX launched Block 5 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The rocket carried the Merah Putih satellite into orbit, which will provide internet and phone services across Indonesia and Southeast Asia, according to SpaceX. The satellite is expected to have a service lifetime of 15 or more years, ' as stated in a mission description.

The Falcon 9's first stage dropped out of the night sky a few minutes later over the Atlantic Ocean, descending to a pinpoint landing on SpaceX's drone ship "Of Course I Still Love" parked a few hundred miles east of Cape Canaveral.

The number "3" may not immediately feel significant, but in the case of Falcon 9, the third reuse of a booster has always remained out of reach for older versions of the rocket, walled off by the exponentially greater cost and effort required to refurbish non-Block 5 rockets after their first reuse.

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Complex 40 launch pad as seen through a time exposure in Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday.

Today's launch was the third SpaceX mission in 16 days, and the company's 15th launch of the year overall. After the vehicle landed on one of SpaceX's drone ships on completion of its flight, the company did its inspection and refurbishment over the last three months to get it ready for flight again. "This is possible due to those Block 5 upgrades, which brings SpaceX closer to its goal of full and rapid rocket reusability", she said on tonight's webcast, which was watched by more than 25,000 YouTube users at its peak.

First and foremost, this is by no means meant to demean the awe-inspiring reality of what SpaceX has managed over the last several years, which includes the first successful Falcon 9 landing, the first commercial orbital-class rocket reuse (also Falcon 9), and the first commercial reuse of an orbital spacecraft (Cargo Dragon), and many others.

Until now, SpaceX has retired rockets after two launches.

Liftoff came on time at 1:19 a.m. ET Tuesday (10:19 p.m. PT Monday) after a trouble-free countdown at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The new satellite will service Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

SpaceX is planning around 30 missions in 2018, up from a record of 18 in 2017.

The hope is to use it for 10 launches before it needs to be looked at and restored.

  • Joey Payne