Almost three years after a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. rocket blew up on the launch pad, Elon Musk’s rocket company pulled off a do-over launch for its customer.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket took off at 7:23 p.m. local time Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying a communication satellite into orbit for Israel’s Space Communication Ltd. Since a September 2016 pre-launch blast destroyed one of Spacecom’s Amos satellites, Musk’s company is flying this one for free, according to the blog Ars Technica.
The Tuesday mission offers Musk a chance for redemption after the 2016 explosion cost both his closely held company and its customer dearly. China’s Beijing Xinwei Group scrapped plans for its $285 million acquisition of Spacecom, and the company lost its service agreements with Facebook Inc. and Eutelsat Communications SA, which were going to use the Amos-6 satellite to provide Internet connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa.
SpaceX owed either $50 million in compensation or a future launch of another satellite for Spacecom, according to a statement the Israeli company issued days after the blast. It took 15 months for the pad to be restored.
Spacecom designed the satellite flown on Tuesday, called Amos-17, using Boeing Co.’s advanced digital payload technology. It will provide broadcast, broadband, mobility and data services across Africa, according to SpaceX’s mission press kit.
The Amos-17 satellite deployed roughly 31 minutes after liftoff. Unlike in many previous launches, SpaceX will not try to recover the rocket’s first stage, which flew twice in 2018.
But SpaceX did catch the rocket fairing in a boat called “Ms Tree.”
Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX sent up the first batch of its own satellites earlier this year, a key step toward creating a constellation that beams broadband to under-served areas across the globe. Musk is counting on the service to become a major revenue source.
SpaceX set a company record in 2018 with 21 launches for customers. Tuesday’s launch was the company’s 10th this year.