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SpaceX Launches Earth-Imaging Satellite Plus Its Own Broadband Demos

Updated on
  • Hisdesat’s PAZ satellite will orbit the planet 15 times a day
  • Company’s own internet prototype units also carried to space
SpaceX Launches Falcon 9 Rocket Carrying Three Satellites

Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a customer payload plus its own broadband demonstration satellites in the company’s first mission since millions tuned in earlier this month for its Falcon Heavy debut.

The Thursday launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central Coast carried a radar-imaging satellite for Spain’s Hisdesat Servicios Estrategicos SA. The PAZ satellite will orbit the planet 15 times a day and collect information -- including ship tracking and weather data -- for government and commercial customers.

The rocket also carried a pair of SpaceX’s own broadband satellites as a secondary payload. Microsat-2a and -2b are the first prototypes for the company’s planned constellation of satellites -- dubbed Starlink -- intended to offer broadband internet around the world.

“If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served,” Musk said in a Tweet Wednesday.

​​​​​​​Before the launch. 

Source: SpaceX

SpaceX’s fourth launch in what is expected to be a record year took off from the California pad at around 6:17 a.m. local time. SpaceX is targeting roughly 30 total launches this year, including flying its new Falcon Heavy rocket again in June.

The PAZ satellite appeared to deploy successfully during SpaceX’s webcast.

The company didn’t attempt to recover the rocket’s first stage, which flew previously in an August mission. SpaceX did try to catch the fairing, or nosecone, using netting on a ship, but it “missed by a few hundred meters,” Musk said in a Tweet.

“Fairing landed intact in water,” he said. “Should be able catch it with slightly bigger chutes to slow down descent.”

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(Adds fairing landing details in final paragraph.)
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