SpaceX launches Egyptian satellite on first Florida mission of June

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SpaceX boosted an Egyptian communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Wednesday, delivering the hefty spacecraft to orbit and kicking off the Space Coast’s June launch manifest.

At 5:04 pm EDT, a 230-foot Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Launch Complex 40 on the commercial mission and then successfully landed on a drone ship just shy of 10 minutes later. The NileSat-301 satellite, weighing some 10,000 pounds, separated from the rocket’s second stage 33 minutes after liftoff.

It marked SpaceX’s 116th successful landing to date, 99th mission flying a used booster, and the Space Coast’s 23rd launch of the year. If the current cadence holds, the unofficial target of 50 launches before the end of the year is likely to stay within reach.

NileSat-301 is expected to deliver better communications services – digital TV and internet, for example – for Egypt and the surrounding area. It was designed, built, and tested by Franco-Italian aerospace company Thales Alenia Space.

Next up on the range is Astra and its Rocket 3.3: the California-based startup is targeting no earlier than Sunday, June 12, for an attempt to fly NASA’s TROPICS science mission from Launch Complex 46. An exact time for the launch is not yet available as teams wait for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The company’s last mission from the Cape in February failed to deliver another NASA mission, along with university payloads, to low-Earth orbit.

Astra aims to produce, transport, and launch rockets at a rapid pace with low costs. Using off-the-shelf parts and existing options like maritime shipping containers, the company says it can launch from almost anywhere in the world as long as there’s a stable concrete slab.

At about 45 feet in height, Rocket 3.3 is a smaller launch vehicle, at least compared to the 230-foot Falcon 9 that is now commonplace. NASA’s Space Launch System, now at pad 39B for its next test attempt on June 19, stands even taller at 323 feet.

For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at EmreKelly.

Launch no earlier than Sunday, June 12

  • Rocket: Astra Rocket 3.3
  • Mission: NASA’s TROPICS mission
  • Launch Time: TBD
  • Launch Complex: 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
  • Trajectory: East / Northeast
  • Weather: Forecast expected Thursday

Visit floridatoday.com/space Sunday, June 12, for real-time updates and live video of the launch.

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