SpaceX Starts 2014 With Spectacular Private Rocket Success Delivering Thai Satellite to Orbit – Gallery

SpaceX began 2014 with a spectacular big bang for private space today, Jan. 6, when the firms next generation Falcon 9 rocket blasted off for the first time this year and successfully delivered the Thaicom 6 commercial broadcasting satellite to its target orbit.

The new, next generation Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 5:06 p.m. EST (2206 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida with the Thai payload.

The sunset SpaceX launch from the Florida Space Coast took place precisely on time with ignition of the nine Merlin 1-D first stage engines at Space Launch Complex 40.

The launch was broadcast live via a SpaceX webcast.

The nine engines on the 224 foot tall Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket generate 1.3 million pounds of thrust, about 50% more than the initial Falcon 9.

The second stage Merlin vacuum engine fired twice as planned.

The first firing began approximately 184 seconds into flight and lasted five minutes and 35 second to deliver Thaicom 6 into its parking orbit.

Clearing the strongback, the Thaicom 6/Falcon 9 mission roars from the pad in its quest for supergeosync orbit. Credit: nasatech.net

The engine relit for a second burn eighteen minutes later and lasted just over one minute to carry the satellite to its final geostationary transfer orbit.

The restart of the Falcon 9 second stage is a requirement for all geostationary transfer missions.

Falcon 9 rocket soars to space with Thaicom 6 commercial satellite on Jan 6, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Jeff Seibert

31 minutes after liftoff the Thaicom 6 spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and was placed into the desired geosynchronous transfer orbit of 295 x 90,000 km geosynchronous at 22.5 degrees inclination.

SpaceX said in a statement that, “The Falcon 9 launch vehicle performed as expected, meeting 100% of mission objectives.”

SpaceX did not attempt to recover the first stage booster on this mission, SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin told me. “We may try on the next flight.”

Thaicom 6 commercial broadcasting satellite in geosynchronous orbit, artists concept

This marks the second launch of the upgraded Falcon 9 in just over a month, following closely on the heels of the maiden flight from Cape Canaveral on Dec. 3 with another commercial satellite, namely SES-8.

“Today’s successful launch of the THAICOM 6 satellite marks the eighth successful flight in a row for Falcon 9,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX. “SpaceX greatly appreciates THAICOM’s support throughout this campaign and we look forward to a busy launch schedule in 2014.”

Both the Thaicom-6 and SES-8 satellites were built by Orbital Sciences, one of SpaceX’s chief competitors in the commercial space race, making for strange bedfellows.

Thaicom 6 patch

Indeed it’s a very busy week for private rockets.

Orbital Sciences is poised to launch their Antares rocket in less than 48 hours on Wednesday, Jan. 8 on a commercial resupply mission for NASA that’s bound for the international Space Station (ISS).

The new Falcon 9 is the key to fulfilling SpaceX’s future launch manifest of nearly 50 payloads worth billions of dollars for a diverse customer base.

Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with SES-8 communications satellite on Dec. 3, 2013 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The next gen Falcon 9 will also launch the human rated SpaceX Dragon to the ISS in a bid to restore America’s human spaceflight capability.

A pair of critical Falcon 9/Dragon abort tests are planned for 2014. Read my new article and discussion with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk – here.

The next SpaceX Dragon cargo launch to the ISS is currently scheduled for Feb. 22, said SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin told Universe Today.

Sunset launch of Falcon 9 with Thiacom 6 broadcast satellite on Jan 6, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Almost clear of the catenary wires, the Thaicom 6/Falcon 9 mission streaks to orbit. Credit: nasatech.net

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars and more news.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Antares Jan. 8 launch, Curiosity, Orion, MAVEN, MOM, Mars rovers and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Jan 7-9: “Antares/Cygnus ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia on Jan. 8” & “Space mission updates”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA, evening

Falcon 9 rocket disappears into the clouds following blastoff on Jan. 6, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Blastoff of 1st Falcon 9 rocket in 2014 with Thaicom 6 commercial satellite from Cape Canaveral, FL on Jan. 6. Credit: SpaceX
Ken Kremer

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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