SpaceX launched Luxembourg’s first military spacecraft on Wednesday, with a flight-proven Falcon 9 carrying the GovSat-1 communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 was at the start of a 121-minute window that opened at 16:25 Eastern Time (21:25 UTC). Amazingly, the booster survived a water landing, despite the return not involving the drone ship.
GovSat-1, also known as SES-16, is the first satellite to be launched for LuxGovSat, a partnership between the government of Luxembourg and commercial satellite operator SES. The satellite will provide secure communications for Luxembourg’s military and the country’s allies, as well as supporting civilian government applications.
The launch was the fifth time SpaceX has deployed a payload for SES. Falcon 9’s first geosynchronous launch carried the SES-8 satellite to orbit in December 2013, while a March 2016 launch deployed SES-9. The launch of SES-10 last March marked the first re-flight of a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, with another re-used Falcon 9 used to deploy SES-11 in October. This launch again used a flight-proven booster.
The SES-16/GovSat-1 satellite is one of three which SES first announced in February 2015, along with SES-14 and SES-15. Orbital ATK was contracted to ...