SpaceX relaunches the final Falcon 9 rocket design

But Tuesday's launch of an Indonesian communications satellite was the first to re-fly an upgraded Falcon 9, known as Block 5, that is created to launch 10 or more times.

SpaceX sent Indonesia's Merah Putih telecommunications satellite into orbit tonight, marking the first reuse of its new-generation Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket booster.

The rocket's first stage made a successful landing on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship. A Block 4-core was used to launch the SES-10 satellite, the Block 4's first journey was 12 months previous.

The satellite was deployed approximately 32 minutes after liftoff into its targeted Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Tonight's focus on the refurbished, soot-stained booster stole the spotlight from Merah Putih, an SSL-built satellite that's created to provide a range of telecommunication services from geostationary orbit, including mobile broadband access across Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The satellite is expected to have a service lifetime of 15 or more years, ' as stated in a mission description.

SpaceX's latest Falcon 9 booster should return to Port Canaveral within three or four days, and will then undergo inspections to determine its fitness for a third launch.

The launch and landing kicked off a new chapter in SpaceX's quest to increase rocket reusability and reduce the cost of access to space.

SpaceX hasn't gone into detail about how hard it was to get the used Block 5 ready for reuse but SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk made Twitter comments last month that hinted it isn't an easy process.

The Falcon 9 booster that blasted off from Cape Canaveral early Tuesday, Aug. 7, and landed on a ship minutes later, could become the company's first to launch a third orbital mission - possibly before the end of this year.

Musk has said Block 5 will be the last major iteration for the Falcon 9.

The 230-foot Falcon 9 lifted off for the first time back on May 11, lifting Bangladesh's first communications satellite to orbit from Kennedy Space Center. Built by Lockheed Martin, the satellite was 18 years old, operating three years past its design life.

"Satellite plays a vital role in our telecommunications infrastructure", said Zulhelfi Abidin, chief technology officer of Telkom Indonesia, in a press release earlier this year. Another predawn Falcon 9 flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on July 25 delivered 10 Iridium voice and data relay payloads to orbit.

SpaceX only had a two-hour launch window that opened at 1:18 am EST Tuesday in which to complete the mission.

  • Joe Gonzales