After two scrubs, SpaceX successfully launches SES-8

Falcon 9 SES-8 launch

A Falcon 9 v1.1 carrying the SES-8 satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday, December 3, 2013. (credit: SpaceX)

Yes, the third time’s the charm. That old saying got used in plenty of headlines and stories last night, after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Tuesday evening and placed its payload, the SES-8 communications satellite for European company SES, into its planned geosynchronous transfer orbit. That launch came after technical issues scrubbed launch attempts on two days last week, Monday and Thursday.

This time around, the countdown for the launch went smoothly, and the rocket lifted off right at the beginning of the launch window. Thirty-three minutes later, after a critical second burn of the Falcon 9’s upper stage, the rocket deployed SES-8 into its planned geosynchronous transfer orbit. Those following the launch had to rely on social media, including SpaceX’s Twitter account, for the news since the company ended its webcast when the video link with the rocket was lost after the end of the second stage’s first burn. (A delay of several minutes by SpaceX relaying the news of the successful deployment did cause a bit of nervousness, but it all ended well.)

Both SpaceX and SES were understandably pleased with the launch. “The successful insertion of the SES-8 satellite confirms the upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle delivers to the industry’s highest performance standards,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a statement issued after the launch. “We appreciate SES’s early confidence in SpaceX and look forward to launching additional SES satellites in the years to come.”

“SES’s maiden launch on board a Falcon 9 rocket is yet another example of our company’s spirit of innovation and advancement of the commercial space industry,” SES president and CEO Romain Bausch said in a statement by his company. The release adds that SES has contracts for three more launches with SpaceX, although only one, in 2015, currently appears on SpaceX’s own launch manifest.

Up next for SpaceX is another launch of a commercial geosynchronous orbit communications satellite: Thaicom 6 for Thaicom. That launch is currently scheduled for December 20, but it’s possible the delay in launching SES-8 could push that launch into January.

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