The Falcon 9, with its Block 5 booster, placed an Indonesian telecommunications satellite into orbit after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. It became the 28th booster that SpaceX has ever recovered.
As the satellite headed to space, the first stage used grid fins and thrusters to land on a floating ship, almost 400 miles off the Florida cost.
But Tuesday's launch of an Indonesian communications satellite was the first to re-fly an upgraded Falcon 9, known as Block 5, that is created to launch 10 or more times.
Liftoff, from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The company's billionaire founder, Elon Musk, said engineers are also working on ways to recover the Falcon 9's second stage. Meanwhile, the second stage continued onward and went through its own follow-up firing to send Merah Putih into its intended orbit. Other improvements include the grid fins, which are used for steering the rocket back from space. On that earlier flight, the Block 5, after getting the rocket soaring, landed on the company's autonomous spaceport drone ship, called Of Course I Still Love You.
Falcon 9 B1046.2's rocket exhaust and crystal-clear skies made for an extraordinary plume.
The satellite was deployed approximately 32 minutes after liftoff into its targeted Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). This was SpaceX's 15th launch so far this year and its 60th of a Falcon 9 rocket.
He continued to say that the Block 5's first stage booster had been created to fly 10 times "with no scheduled refurbishment" and with "moderate scheduled maintenance", ultimately being capable of 100 missions. Shortly after the launch, Musk told Ars Technica, "We are going to be very rigorous in taking this rocket apart and confirming our design assumptions to be confident that it is indeed able to be reused without taking it apart". "Ironically, we need to take it apart to confirm that it does not need to be taken apart".
He said the Block 5's first stage booster is created to fly 10 times "with no scheduled refurbishment". SpaceX plans to re-launch a Block 5 rocket on Tuesday just three months after its original flight.
Block 4-generation Falcon 9 boosters could only be reused once.
The new satellite will replace the aging Telkom 1 satellite, which has been in operation since 1999. The new satellite will service Indonesia and Southeast Asia. But Telkom 1's failure past year forced the operator to re-route communications traffic through other satellites.
Merah Putih's on-board engine will circularize its orbit over the equator in the coming weeks.
"Satellite plays a vital role in our telecommunications infrastructure", said Zulhelfi Abidin, Telkom's chief technology officer. "SSL has been an excellent spacecraft supplier and has completed the satellite construction ahead of schedule". After extensive testing and checkout, the satellite will be put into service.
SpaceX's latest Falcon 9 booster should return to Port Canaveral within three or four days, and will then undergo inspections to determine its fitness for a third launch. That flight is scheduled for launch next month from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
A flight readiness review Monday approved the continuation of final launch preps for Parker Solar Probe, which will fly closer to the sun than any previous mission.
SpaceX is planning around 30 missions in 2018, up from a record of 18 in 2017.