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SpaceX launches Japanese satellite, successfully lands rocket booster on drone ship

May 5, 2016

One month after landing its first-stage rocket booster on a drone ship, SpaceX repeated the feat and launched a commercial communications satellite late Thursday night.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was launched at 10:21 p.m. PST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and video of the event was streamed live. Weather conditions pushed the launch from Wednesday to Thursday.

The Falcon 9 rocket carried the JCSAT-14 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The satellite, operated by the Japanese communications company SKY Perfect JSAT Corp., will replace another of the firm’s satellites and provide coverage to Asia, Oceania, Russia and the Pacific Islands. It deployed about 32 minutes after liftoff.

The Hawthorne company, whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp., also repeated the successful landing of its first-stage rocket booster on a drone ship moored in the Atlantic Ocean several hundred miles off the Florida coast.

SpaceX initially predicted that it wouldn’t make this landing. Since the satellite was being delivered to a high orbit, the first-stage booster encountered high velocities and re-entry heat, the company said.

This was SpaceX’s fourth launch of the year.

In April, SpaceX landed its Falcon 9 first-stage booster on a drone ship for the first time. The feat gave more credence to Chief Executive Elon Musk’s plans to reduce launch costs by utilizing reusable rockets, setting up the company to potentially dominate the launch market.


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10:56 p.m.: This story was updated with SpaceX’s deployment of the JCSAT-14 satellite.

10:43 p.m.: This story was updated with SpaceX’s successful launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and landing of its first-stage rocket booster on a drone ship.

This story was originally posted at 9:45 a.m.

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