SpaceX booster flies again with Indonesia satellite

Clark Diaz
August 9, 2018

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida early Tuesday morning.

Formerly designated Telkom-4, the satellite renamed Merah Putih - representing the Indonesian flag's red and white colors - will replace the Telkom-1 spacecraft launched in 1999.

Merah Putih was successfully deployed roughly 30 minutes later, primed to help telecommunications company PT Telekom provide service to Indonesia and other areas in South and Southeast Asia.

SpaceX is aiming for another commercial satellite launch from the Cape later this month - potentially its fourth launch in as many weeks. Less than 9 minutes after liftoff, the rocket's first stage came back to Earth for a vertical touchdown on SpaceX's "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship, which was stationed a few hundred miles off the Florida coast.

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Reportedly, SpaceX has boasted that the new Block 5 first stages should be able to launch 10 times with just inspections between landing and liftoff, and 100 times or more with some minor refurbishment involved. In comparison, SpaceX spent 11 months between its first-ever launch of a previously flown Falcon 9 booster in March 2017 and that rocket's initial flight in April 2016. If that happens, we'd see the same Block 5 launch a whopping three times in just one year. 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".

The rocket, using a first stage that flew in May with the Bangabandhu-1 satellite for Bangladesh, lifted off at 1:18 a.m.

SpaceX's goal is the rapid reusability of its rockets to drive down the cost of launches. The new telecom craft was built by SSL in Palo Alto, California.

"Satellite plays a vital role in our telecommunications infrastructure", said Zulhelfi Abidin, Telkom's chief technology officer.

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With the third reuse now explicitly on the table for B1046 "later this year", Falcon 9 has broken a two-launch ceiling that long loomed over its older predecessors.

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.

If launch remains set for August 23, liftoff is scheduled for a window opening at 11:33 p.m. EDT (0333 GMT on August 24).

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