SpaceX successfully launched the powerful Koreasat-5A communications satellite for South Korea's KT SAT from the historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday (30 October) marking the space company's 16th successful mission this year. Almost nine minutes after launch, SpaceX nailed the landing of the rocket's first stage on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love you" floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
The base of the rocket booster was still in flames after landing but that was quickly put out by SpaceX.
"A little toasty, but stage one is certainly still intact on the drone ship," SpaceX lead mechanical engineer John Federspiel said. The first stage landing marked SpaceX's 19th successful booster recovery in 24 attempts.
The 3,700kg Koreasat-5A satellite was deployed to its geostationary transfer orbit about 35 minutes after liftoff. The satellite will replace Koreasat-5, which was launched in 2006, and will provide high-speed Ku-band television broadcast and other communications services to Korea, Japan, Philippines, Indochina, South Asia and Guam.
It will also provide maritime coverage of the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, South China Sea and the East China Sea.
The latest successful mission comes as the Elon Musk-owned company keeps up its blistering launch pace and seems on course to achieve the goal set by SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell earlier this year. In January, Shotwell said SpaceX would see at least 20 launches in 2017.
At least four more missions have already been scheduled to launch before the end of the year, including the debut Falcon Heavy launch.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has long championed the company's goals of refurbishing and reusability in an effort to reduce the cost of launches and space hardware. So far, SpaceX has launched three previously flown Falcon 9 rocket boosters and at least one Dragon cargo capsule.
During its next resupply mission for Nasa to the International Space Station, SpaceX will use a pre-flown Dragon for the journey.