The satellite, Es'hail-2, left NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida around 3:45 p.m. ET, and the booster landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after. In an increasingly routine feat, the booster's first stage fell away and flew itself back to a pinpoint touchdown on an off-shore drone ship, the company's 31st successful recovery. A Qatari satellite deployed roughly 32 minutes after liftoff. The launch window today runs for almost 2 hours, closing at 5:29 p.m. EST, (2229 GMT). In July, the booster helped carry the Telstar 19 VANTAGE satellite into space.
Es'hail-2 also carries two amateur-radio transponders that will facilitate conventional analog ham radio as well as experimental digital communications, including amateur television. It was also SpaceX's first-ever launch during the month of November. It will be refurbished and launched for a third time as part of SpaceX's plan to cut down launch costs. The new satellite will provide telecommunication services to the Middle East and North Africa.
What is Falcon 9? Two firings were required to put the Es'hail 2 relay station into the required elliptical "transfer" orbit, one with a predicted low point of just 115 miles and a high point of about 22,370. The Es'hail 2 will be situated 26 degrees east longitude over the equator.
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SpaceX has developed the technology to return to earth the first stage, fitted with four fold-out landing legs for a soft landing.
This launch marked Falcon 9's 18th successful launch this year, equalizing the record the private rocket launch company made last year.
The launch was one of two US launches that were to take place Thursday, until the morning launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia was pushed back a day because of the likelihood of poor weather. And 9 in the title refers to the number of engines in the rocket.