SpaceX has checked off another reusability milestone, re-flying the latest version of its Falcon 9 rocket for the first time ever.
The Falcon 9, with its Block 5 booster, placed an Indonesian telecommunications satellite into orbit after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
After separating from the satellite, the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Furthermore, while SpaceX's competitors have focused only on recovery of the first stage launcher, SpaceX has set a target date of 2022 for development a fully recoverable 150-ton payload rocket (including second stage), which would place them several years ahead of Chinese firms, if they are successful.
The Merlin upper stage engine reignited for a almost minute-long firing at 1:44 a.m. EDT (0544 GMT), giving the Merah Putih satellite enough velocity to climb into a geostationary transfer orbit with a low point a few hundred miles above Earth, and a high point expected to reach tens of thousands of miles in altitude.
Launching at 1:18 a.m. ET, the flight carried communications satellite Merah Putih, which is named for the red and white colors of the Indonesian flag.
SpaceX used its newest style booster for the second time to put a communications satellite into orbit for Indonesia.
"The satellite is expected to have a service lifetime of 15 or more years", SpaceX said.
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.
SpaceX maintains that the boosters can be used up to 100 times - thus vastly reducing the cost of reaching space.
A few minutes after separation, three of the first stage's nine engines re-ignited to slow the booster for entry back into the discernible atmosphere, using four titanium "grid fins" at the top of the rocket to maintain its orientation and trajectory.
The Merah Putih satellite then was released into an elliptical transfer orbit, the normal first step in getting a communications satellite into its intended orbit 22,300 miles above the equator. Uncrewed tests of the full human-rated launch system still have to be completed, but each successful Block 5 launch gives NASA (and SpaceX) greater confidence. After 18 years of service, beyond it design life, Telkom-1 suffered a fuel leak a year ago and began to break apart in orbit, disrupting services.
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.