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

Amazing Atlas Seaside Blastoff Highlights EchoStar 19 Zoom to Orbit – Photo/Video Gallery

Fiery blastoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar XIX satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Fiery blastoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar XIX satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – Sunday afternoons blastoff of the powerful Atlas V rocket from a seaside Florida launchpad has produced a plethora of amazing imagery as the 20 story tall rocket zoomed to orbit with the 7.5 ton EchoStar 19 high speed internet satellite.

EchoStar 19 or XIX, is the highest capacity broadband satellite ever built and launched and promises a vast increase in capacity for homes and businesses subscribing to HughesNet® across North America.

Check out this expanding and explicit gallery of eyepopping photos and videos from several space journalist colleagues and friends and myself – and revealing how EchoStar earned its way to geosynchronous orbit from prelaunch to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Click back as the gallery grows !

The ULA Atlas V blasted off from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. EST at lunchtime on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016.

ULA Atlas V rocket and EchoStar XIX satellite lift  off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 2:13 p.m. ET on on Dec. 18, 2016.  Credit: Julian Leek
ULA Atlas V rocket and EchoStar XIX satellite lift off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. ET on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Julian Leek

EchoStar 19, also known as Jupiter 2, marked ULA’s final mission of 2016 – completing a dozen liftoffs and a dozen sterling successes.

ULA has enjoyed a 100% success rate for this 68th Atlas V launch stretching back to the company’s founding back in 2006.

Launch of EchoStar XIX satellite atop ULA Atlas V from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. ET on Dec. 18, 2016.  Credit: Dawn Leek Taylor
Launch of EchoStar XIX satellite atop ULA Atlas V from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. ET on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Dawn Leek Taylor

ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin with 115 successful launches under its belt.

The 194-foot-tall commercial Atlas V booster launched in the 431 rocket configuration with approximately 2 million pounds of first stage thrust.

ULA  Atlas V rocket streaks to orbit carrying EchoStar XIX satellite after lift off from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Julian Leek
ULA Atlas V rocket streaks to orbit carrying EchoStar XIX satellite after lift off from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Julian Leek

This is the 3rd launch of the 431 configuration. All 3 delivered commercial communications satellites to orbit.

Three solid rocket motors are attached to the Atlas booster to augment the first stage powered by the dual nozzle RD AMROSS RD-180 engine.

The satellite is housed inside a 4-meter diameter extra extended payload fairing (XEPF). The Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engine.

Here’s a trio of launch videos revealing different perspectives of the launch, including views from a remote video at the pad, a remote time-lapse camera at the pad, and from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at the Apollo-Saturn center.

Video Caption: This 160X speed time lapse starts at 5AM with a fogged camera. It follows last minute ULA prep work, w/ launch at 03:15 on the video on Dec. 18, 2016. It then follows pad cool down and securing by ULA, and concludes with our remote camera pickup at 3:45PM. We even had a little rain shower at the end. Credit: Jeff Seibert

Video Caption: Atlas V rocket launched the US EchoStar 19 high-speed internet satellite on Dec 18, 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. EST. Credit: Tania Rostane

Video Caption: Launch of EchoStar 19 high speed internet satellite for North America on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from SLC-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016 – as seen in this remote video taken at the pad. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

December has been an extremely busy time for launches at the Cape, with three in the past week and a half supported by U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing.

These include NASA’s CYGNSS hurricane mission launch by an Orbital ATK Pegasus rocket on Dec. 15; and the WGS-8 military communications satellite launch for the US Air Force by a ULA Delta 4 rocket on Dec. 7.

EchoStar XIX satellite housed inside payload fairing atop ULA Atlas V at pad 41 prior to liftoff on Dec. 18, 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Fl. Credit: Lane Hermann
EchoStar XIX satellite housed inside payload fairing atop ULA Atlas V at pad 41 prior to liftoff on Dec. 18, 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Fl. Credit: Lane Hermann

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

Ken Kremer

Blastoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar XIX satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Blastoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar XIX satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
ULA Atlas V rocket and EchoStar XIX satellite lift  off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. ET on Dec. 18, 2016.  Credit: Julian Leek
ULA Atlas V rocket and EchoStar XIX satellite lift off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. ET on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Julian Leek
EchoStar XIX satellite lifts off atop ULA Atlas V from pad 41 on Dec. 18, 2016.  Credit: Julian Leek
EchoStar XIX satellite lifts off atop ULA Atlas V from pad 41 on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Julian Leek
Ignition and liftoff of United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket delivering EchoStar 19 satellite to orbit from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Ignition and liftoff of United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket delivering EchoStar 19 satellite to orbit from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Liftoff of ULA Atlas V rocket delivering EchoStar 19 satellite to orbit from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Liftoff of ULA Atlas V rocket delivering EchoStar 19 satellite to orbit from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
EchoStar XIX satellite poised for liftoff on ULA Atlas V at pad 41 on Dec. 18, 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Fl. Credit: Lane Hermann
EchoStar XIX satellite poised for liftoff on ULA Atlas V at pad 41 on Dec. 18, 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Fl. Credit: Lane Hermann
EchoStar XIX satellite speeds to geosynchronous orbit launching atop ULA Atlas V rocket from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. ET on Dec. 18, 2016.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
EchoStar XIX satellite speeds to geosynchronous orbit launching atop ULA Atlas V rocket from pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:13 p.m. ET on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
ULA Atlas V rocket streaks to orbit carrying EchoStar XIX satellite after lift off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
ULA Atlas V rocket streaks to orbit carrying EchoStar XIX satellite after lift off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
ULA Atlas V zooms to orbit with EchoStar 19 from Florida Space Coast with first stage engines firing 2 million pounds of thrust from liquid and solid fueled motors as it arcs over to Africa on Dec. 18, 2016.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
ULA Atlas V zooms to orbit with EchoStar 19 from Florida Space Coast with first stage engines firing 2 million pounds of thrust from liquid and solid fueled motors as it arcs over to Africa on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
ULA Atlas V zooms to orbit with EchoStar 19 from Florida Space Coast on 2 million pounds of thrust from liquid and solid fueled motors on Dec. 18, 2016 .  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
ULA Atlas V zooms to orbit with EchoStar 19 from Florida Space Coast on 2 million pounds of thrust from liquid and solid fueled motors on Dec. 18, 2016 . Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Fiery blastoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar XIX satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Fiery blastoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar XIX satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket streaks to orbit carrying EchoStar XIX satellite after lift off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket streaks to orbit carrying EchoStar XIX satellite after lift off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Fiery blastoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar XIX satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Fiery blastoff of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar XIX satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl., at 2:13 p.m. EST on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Highest Capacity North American Internet Satellite to Launch on Atlas V Dec. 18 – Watch Live

A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar 19 high speed internet satellite is poised for blastoff from  Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar 19 high speed internet satellite is poised for blastoff from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – The highest capacity satellite delivering high speed internet to homes and businesses in North America is scheduled for an early afternoon blastoff on a mighty ULA Atlas V on Sunday, Dec. 18, from the Florida Space Coast.

The lunchtime liftoff should thrill spectators since the venerable United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster carrying EchoStar 19 to orbit is equipped with a trio of solid rocket boosters making for a highly visible plume trailing behind all the way to geosynchronous orbit – weather permitting of course.

“EchoStar XIX will be the world’s highest capacity broadband satellite in orbit, dramatically increasing capacity for HughesNet® high-speed satellite Internet service to homes and businesses in North America,” according to ULA.

Also known as Jupiter 2, it will deliver more speed, more data and more advanced features to consumers and small businesses from coast to coast, says EchoStar.

EchoStar 19  satellite being processed
EchoStar 19 satellite being processed

The ULA Atlas V was rolled out to the launch pad this morning ahead of tomorrows launch of the EchoStar XIX mission for Hughes from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016.

The launch window opens at 1:27 p.m. EST.

The launch window extends for two hours from 1:27 to 3:37 p.m. EST.

You can watch the Atlas launch live via a ULA webcast. The live launch broadcast will begin about 20 minutes before the planned liftoff at 1:07 p.m. EST here:

www.ulalaunch.com and www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

Artwork for ULA Atlas V launch of EchoStar 19 high speed Internet satellite on Dec. 18, 2016 from  Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.  Credit: ULA
Artwork for ULA Atlas V launch of EchoStar 19 high speed Internet satellite on Dec. 18, 2016 from Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: ULA

Because of the added solids, the soar to space should be spectacular for locals and tourists gathering from around the world to view the launch now slated for just a day away.

And since the liftoff is taking place on a weekend at lunchtime, that makes it perfectly convenient for a family outing in the sunshine state amidst this Christmas holiday season – which is currently sunny!!

The weather forecast for Sunday, Dec. 18, calls for a 70 percent chance of acceptable weather conditions at launch time.

The primary concerns are for thick clouds and cumlulus clouds.

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar 19 high speed internet satellite is poised for blastoff from  Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the EchoStar 19 high speed internet satellite is poised for blastoff from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 18, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

EchoStar 19 will be delivered to a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster.

It will be stationed at 97.1 degrees West longitude.

EchoStar 19 was built by Space Systems Loral (SSL) and is based on the powerful SSL 1300 platform as a multi-spot beam Ka-band satellite.

It is upgraded from the prior series version.

“Building from their experience on the highly successful EchoStar XVII broadband satellite, SSL and Hughes collaboratively engineered the specific design details of this payload for optimum performance.”

The 194-foot-tall commercial Atlas V booster will launch in the 431 rocket configuration with three solid rocket motors attached to augment the first stage thrust of approximately 2 million pounds.

Up close look at the payload fairing housing EchoStar 19 internet sat atop ULA Atlas V rocket set for launch from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl.  Credit: Lane Hermann
Up close look at the payload fairing housing EchoStar 19 internet sat atop ULA Atlas V rocket set for launch from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl. Credit: Lane Hermann

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

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about ULA Atlas V EchoStar 19 comsat launch, GOES-R launch, Heroes and Legends at KSCVC, OSIRIS-REx, InSight Mars lander, ULA, SpaceX and Orbital ATK missions, Juno at Jupiter, SpaceX AMOS-6 & CRS-9 rocket launch, ISS, ULA Atlas and Delta rockets, Orbital ATK Cygnus, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Dec. 16-18: “ULA Atlas V EchoStar 19 comsat launch,GOES-R weather satellite launch, OSIRIS-Rex, SpaceX and Orbital ATK missions to the ISS, Juno at Jupiter, ULA Delta 4 Heavy spy satellite, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

Artwork for ULA Atlas V launch of EchoStar 19 high speed Internet satellite on Dec. 18, 2016 from  Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.  Credit: ULA
Artwork for ULA Atlas V launch of EchoStar 19 high speed Internet satellite on Dec. 18, 2016 from Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: ULA