A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the Telstar 18 Vantage communications satellite into orbit. After a 77-minute weather delay, the rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and deployed the Telstar 18 Vantage (18V) communications satellite, also known as Apstar 5C, into orbit 32 minutes later. About 8 minutes after liftoff, the rocket booster stuck a landing aboard SpaceX’s East Coast drone ship named “Of Course I Still Love You.” “We don’t have a view but we hear recovery calling out, ‘Falcon 9 has landed,'” John Insprucker, Falcon 9 principal integration engineer, said during SpaceX’s launch webcast. SpaceX did not attempt to recover the payload fairing — the protective nose cone that surrounds a satellite during launch — this morning. The company has tried to do so during several previous liftoffs using a net-equipped boat named Mr. Steven but hasn’t had any luck thus far.
This mission used the new “Block 5” variant of the Falcon 9 rocket and was the fourth to use this updated model. While the previous Telstar mission launched on a reused Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket in July, the Telstar 18V satellite launched on a brand-new rocket. Telstar 18V is the third high-throughput satellite in a constellation launched by a Canadian company called Telesat, and it will be the first satellite in this fleet to provide coverage over the Asia-Pacific region. Hovering above the Earth in geostationary orbit, Telstar 18V will provide constant broadband communications services to China, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Ocean region, Telesat officials said in a statement.