A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket climbed away from Cape Canaveral early Sunday, and its first stage booster returned to a drone ship parked in the Atlantic Ocean after sending a heavyweight commercial communications satellite toward orbit for Telesat. The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket lifted off at 1:50 a.m. EDT (0550 GMT) Sunday from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad on SpaceX’s 13th mission of the year.
The Telstar 19 VANTAGE communications satellite was packaged inside the launcher’s nose shroud, kicking off a 15-year mission to serve broadband connectivity across the Americas, stretching from northern Canada to Brazil. The nearly 15,600-pound (7,075-kilogram) spacecraft is the heaviest commercial communications satellite ever launched.
The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage detached around two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, then headed for an on-target touchdown on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” parked in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles east of Cape Canaveral. The upper stage continued into orbit, and deployed the Telstar 19 VANTAGE spacecraft around 33 minutes into the mission, notching SpaceX’s 31st successful launch in a row.
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