Commercial Space

Stunning Imagery Shows 1st Nighttime Falcon 9 Launch off Pad 39A; EchoStar XXIII Photo/Video Gallery

Blastoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 with EchoStar XXIII TV satellite for Brazil from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 16 at 2:00 a.m. EDT. Photo from camera at the pad perimeter. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The opening volley of March Launch Madness started brilliantly as showcased by stunning imagery of the inaugural nighttime launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 off historic pad 39A under moonlit skies along the Florida Space Coast on Thursday, March 15.

The 229 foot tall Falcon 9 rocket thundered to life at 2:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, March 16 on a commercial liftoff from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and successfully delivered the high capacity EchoStar XXIII TV broadcast satellite to geosynchronous orbit for Brazil.

Check out the expanding spectacular gallery of launch photos and videos gathered from my space journalist colleagues, myself and spectators ringing the space coast.

Besides being the first night launch of a Falcon 9 from pad 39A, the mission also goes down as the first fully commercial launch from pad 39A.

Overall the EchoStar XXIII launch counts as only the second Falcon 9 ever to blast off from pad 39A.

The inaugural Falcon 9 blastoff successfully took place last month on Feb. 19 on a contracted cargo resupply mission for NASA that delivered over 2.7 tons of science experiments, crew supplies and research gear to the International Space Station (ISS) on the SpaceX CRS-10 Dragon spaceship – as I reported here.

SpaceX’s billionaire CEO Elon Musk leased historic pad 39A from NASA back in April 2014 for launches of the firms Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy carrying both robotic vehicles as well as humans on missions to low Earth orbit, the Moon and ultimately the Red Planet.

Streak shot of SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying EchoStar 23 TV satellite to orbit from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 16 at 2:00 a.m. EDT, as seen from the KSC press site. Credit: Julian Leek

Watch this video compilation from Jeff Seibert:

Video Caption: Echostar-23 launch on a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch of the Echostar-23 satellite is the first commercial launch to take place from historic Pad 39A. Credit: Jeff Seibert

After a short delay due to wind issues, the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D first stage engines ignited at 2:00 a.m. EDT March 16, generating 1.7 million pounds of liftoff thrust to propel the commercial EchoStar 23 telecommunications satellite off pad 39A and on its way to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) for EchoStar Corporation.

The satellite was deployed approximately 34 minutes after launch.

If all goes well, March features a triple header of launches with launch competitor and arch rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) planning a duo of nighttime blastoffs from their Delta and Atlas rocket families.

With Falcon away, the launch dates have been rescheduled for Saturday, March 18 and Friday, March 24 respectively.

Indeed the potential for a grand slam of launches also exists with another Falcon 9 blastoff at the very end of this month – if all goes well. But first we have to get through the Delta and Atlas launches and deal with finicky Florida weather.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket streaks to orbit with EchoStar XXIII TV satellite in this long exposure photo taken in front of NASA’s countdown clock under moonlit skies at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 16 at 2:00 a.m. EDT. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com

SpaceX announced that this was the last launch of an expendable Falcon 9.

Streak shot of SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying EchoStar 23 TV satellite to orbit from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 16 at 2:00 a.m. EDT, as seen from the turn basin at the KSC press site. Credit: Jeff Seibert

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

Ken Kremer

Blastoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 with EchoStar 23 TV satellite from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 16 at 2:00 a.m. EDT. Photo from camera inside the pad perimeter. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com
Composite panoramic view of seaside Launch Complex 39A with SpaceX hangar and Falcon rocket 9 raised vertical to deliver the EchoStar 23 telecom satellite to geostationary orbit overnight March 16, 2017. Pad 39B at center. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com
The SpaceX Falcon 9 launches the EchoStar 23 telecomsat from historic Launch Complex 39A with countdown clock in foreground at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as display shows liftoff progress to geosynchronous orbit after post midnight blastoff on March 16 at 2:oo a.m. EDT. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com
Liftoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 with EchoStar XXIII as seen through the trees from a house in Titusville, FL. Credit: Wesley Baskin
Liftoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 with EchoStar XXIII as seen through the trees from a house in Titusville, FL. Credit: Wesley Baskin
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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