SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Launches Communications Satellite, Hits Landing Trifecta

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launched its first commercial satellite on Thursday, with its three first stage boosters successfully landing for later reuse.

The world’s most powerful booster lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:35 p.m. EDT. The rocket successfully orbited the Arabsat 6A communications satellite.

After separating from the first-stage core, the rocket’s two side boosters touched down safety at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Falcon Heavy’s central core then touched down on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

During Falcon 9’s first launch in February 2018, the two side boosters landed successfully at Cape Canaveral while the central core narrowly missed the drone ship.

Arabsat-6A is a high-capacity telecommunications satellite that will deliver television, radio, Internet, and mobile communications to customers in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

Built on Lockheed Martin’s enhanced LM 2100 platform, Arabsat-6A includes several innovations that provide advanced Ka-spot beam communications services and Ku and Ka-band coverages in addition to other frequency bands.

Arabsat 6A will be located at one of Arabsat’s orbital positions and will support Arabsat’s competitive position as the first operator in the region for satellite capacities and services.

LC-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has a long and storied history dating back to the early 1960s. Originally built to support the Apollo program, LC-39A supported the first Saturn V launch (Apollo 4)and many subsequent Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 in July 1969. Beginning in the late 1970s, LC-39A was modified to support Space Shuttle launches,hosting the first and last shuttle missions to orbit in 1981 and 2011 respectively.

In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA for the use of historic LC-39A. Since then, the company has made significant upgrades to modernize the pad’s structures and ground systems, while also preserving its important heritage. Extensive modifications to LC-39A have been made to support launches of both commercial and crew missions on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.