Published: Tue, May 16, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Ted Wilson

Could Be Best Year For SpaceX Record Number Of Successful Launches Probable

Could Be Best Year For SpaceX Record Number Of Successful Launches Probable

Weather is near ideal for a launch from Kennedy Space Center this evening, with a 90-percent chance of favorable conditions.

SpaceX plans to launch a commercial communications satellite Monday afternoon in what will be the Elon Musk-led company's fifth launch of the year.

Unlike previous launches with the Falcon 9, this time SpaceX isn't planning to attempt a landing on one of its robotic ships.

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Instead, the spent rocket will fall into the Atlantic Ocean, as numerous rocket boosters did before SpaceX and others like Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin led the charge toward reusable rockets. The 49-minute launch window opens at 7:21pm ET Monday. Unlike most of its missions these days, SpaceX will not try to recover the Falcon 9 post-takeoff.

In the future, such a heavy payload will likely be carried by the company's Falcon Heavy rocket, now in production. Plus, the satellite is going into a particularly high orbit called Geostationary Transfer Orbit - a path 22,000 miles above the Earth's surface. After tonight, a seventh launch could come just two weeks later at the beginning of June, a cargo supply mission to the International Space Station.

The National Reconnaissance Office bought SpaceX's launch services via a contract with Ball Aerospace, a Colorado-based satellite and instrument builder.

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The maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy has been repeatedly delayed - it now is planned for sometime this summer - but engine upgrades made it possible to launch the 6.7-ton Inmarsat-5 satellite to a single-core Falcon 9, clearing the way for Monday's flight.

Inmarsat 5 F4 counts as the sixth SpaceX launch of 2017. It's the private company's 6th successful flight this year.

The satellite is 7 meters tall and 40.6 meters wide, making it taller than a double-decker bus and wider than a Boeing 737, according to Inmarsat's website.

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They say the satellite has been loaded onto the rocket that's now at Launch Complex 39-A.

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