Commercial Space

SpaceX Nails Dazzling Midnight Launch of Japanese Comsat and Droneship Landing

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying JCSAT-16 Japanese communications satellite to orbit on Aug. 14, 2016 at 1:26 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL — Shortly after midnight today, Sunday, Aug. 14, and under near pristine Florida Space Coast skies, SpaceX dazzled its commercial customers and space enthusiasts alike worldwide with the twin feats of nailing the nighttime launch of the firm’s Falcon 9 carrying a huge Japanese telecommunications satellite to orbit and accomplishing the nailbiting precision touchdown of the first stage on a miniscule droneship at sea.

A virgin SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the JCSAT-16 telecom satellite roared to life right on time Sunday morning at 1:26 a.m. from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and streaked to orbit.

Streak shot of SpaceX Falcon 9 delivering JCSAT-16 Japanese communications satellite to orbit after blastoff on Aug. 14, 2016 at 1:26 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl. Credit: Julian Leek

Scarcely some nine minutes later the 15 story tall first stage completed a pinpoint and upright soft landing on a prepositioned ocean going platform after carrying the Japanese satellite to its intended Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

First stage landing confirmed on the droneship. Second stage & JCSAT-16 continuing to orbit on 15 Aug 2016. Credit: SpaceX

The satellite was launched using the upgraded version of the 229 foot tall Falcon 9 rocket. The first stage generates over 1.71 million pounds of sea level thrust when all nine Merlin 1D engines fire up on the pad.

Check out the expanding gallery of launch photos and videos.

The JCSAT-16 communications satellite was built by Space Systems Loral for Tokyo-based SKY Perfect JSAT Corp. It is equipped Ku-band and Ka-band communications services for customers of SKY Perfect JSAT Corp.

SKY Perfect JSAT Corp. ia a leading satellite operator in the Asia – Pacific region. JCSAT-16 will be positioned 22,300 miles (35,800 kilometers) above the equator.

Sunday’s launch was the second this year for The sextet of intact and upright landings of the recovered 156-foot-tall (47-meter) booster count as stunning successes towards SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk’s vision of rocket reusability and radically slashing the cost of sending rockets to space by recovering the boosters and eventually reflying them with new payloads from paying customers.

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying JCSAT-16 Japanese communications satellite to orbit on Aug. 14, 2016 at 1:26 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The JCSAT-14 satellite was already successfully launched earlier this year atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 on May 6.

JCSAT-16 will primarily serve as an on orbit back up spare for the company’s existing services, a company spokeswomen told Universe Today at the media launch viewing site.

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch of JCSAT-16.

“I am very proud of the entire Space Coast team. Their flawless work made this mission a success,” said Col. Walt Jackim, 45th Space Wing vice commander and mission Launch Decision Authority.

“Assured access to space remains a difficult and challenging endeavor. Today’s launch reflects a superb collaborative effort between commercial launch providers, allied customers, and U.S. Air Force range and safety resources. The 45th Space Wing remains a proud member of the Space Coast team and we look forward to continuing our service as the ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space.”

With today’s event, SpaceX has now successfully soft landed 6 of the spent first stage boosters over the past eight months following successful rocket delivery launches to orbit for NASA and commercial customers – two on land and four at sea.

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying JCSAT-16 Japanese comsat to orbit on Aug. 14, 2016 at 1:26 a.m. EDT from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl. Credit: Dawn Leek Taylor

The sextet of intact and upright landings of the recovered 156-foot-tall (47-meter) booster count as stunning successes towards SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk’s vision of rocket reusability and radically slashing the cost of sending rockets to space by recovering the boosters and eventually reflying them with new payloads from paying customers.

JCSAT-16 satellite manufactured by Space Systems Loral for Tokyo-based SKY Perfect JSAT Corp.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

SpaceX Launch and :Landing control center. Credit: Lane Hermann
Mission patch for SpaceX JCSAT-16 launch. Credit: SpaceX
SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation communications managers Yoko Watanabe and Katsumi Sugiura, and Ken Kremer of Universe Today discuss the JCSAT-16 Japanese telecom sat mission in this prelaunch view of SpaceX Falcon 9 at SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl. Credit: Julian Leek
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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