Falcon Heavy launches Arabsat 6A as SpaceX manages to recover all three of its boosters but later one fell overboard

by | Apr 12, 2019 | commercial launch services, Launches, Satellites, Seradata News, SpaceX

Arabsat 6A, a 6,460kg communications satellite built by Lockheed Martin, was sent safely on its way by a Falcon Heavy launch and injected into a 89,808 x 321km super-synchronous transfer orbit. The launch took place from the Kennedy Space Centre, near Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2235 GMT on 11 April 2019.

Falcon Heavy carries Arabsat 6A downrange. Courtesy: SpaceX

This was the second flight of the Falcon Heavy. While the previous launch successfully put SpaceX supremo Elon Musk’s Tesla roadster into orbit around the Sun, it only managed to land its two reusable boosters back at Cape Canaveral. The attempt to land the reusable core first stage on a drone ship failed.

The plume of Falcon Heavy’s second flight was visible on the Goes East imagery. Courtesy: NOAA via Twitter

This flight was – at first sight – more fortunate. Both the side boosters managed to land back at the LZ-1 and LZ-2 sites at Cape Canaveral, while the core booster managed to land safely on the Of Course I Still Love You drone barge, down range in the Atlantic.

Update on 16 April 2019:  Not everything went to plan after the landing. The automated Octograbber on the drone barge does not work on the core rocket due to different Falcon Heavy attachment points. The back-up secure fastening system could not be applied as the crew were unable to operate safely in rough seas. The core stage then fell overboard during the voyage back to Port Canaveral and was damaged beyond economic repair – although the engines may yet be recovered and cleaned. The two fairing halves were, however, recovered from the sea (SpaceX has given up on trying to keep them dry) and these will be used on future launches.


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