A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket thundered to life and streaked away from the Florida coast on Thursday, carrying Qatar’s Es’hail-2 communications satellite towards orbit.
Despite cloudy weather, the Falcon's 9's nine Merlin 1C first stage engines flashed to life at 3.46pm EST, throttled up to full thrust and quickly pushed the 229ft-tall rocket straight up from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre atop a brilliant jet of flaming exhaust.
Knifing through an overcast sky, the rocket quickly disappeared from view, leaving a slowly fading rumble in its wake.
Two minutes and 35 seconds after liftoff, the first stage separated and dropped away, followed a few seconds later by ignition of the second stage's single engine. Two firings 32 minutes after liftoff put the Es'hail 2 communications satellite into the required elliptical "transfer" orbit.
The launch was witnessed by HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah and Qatar's ambassador to the US Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad al-Thani with other dignitaries and officials.
HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah and Qatar's ambassador to the US Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad al-Thani with other dignitaries and officials watch the launch.
Earlier, Es’hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company, announced the safe arrival of Es’hail-2 satellite at the SpaceX launch facility, in preparation for the launch.
Built by Mitsubishi Electric Company, based on their DS 2000 satellite bus, Es’hail-2 has a proven, modular platform with high power capability and flexibility for a broad range of applications. In addition to offering Ku-band capacity to support the growing 25.5?E / 26.0°E broadcast neighbourhood, Es’hail-2 also features multi-transponder Ka-band capacity with sophisticated anti-jamming capabilities providing business and government sectors with secure communications across the Mena region. The spacecraft has a design life in excess of 16 years.
Ali al-Kuwari, president and CEO of Es’hailSat, said earlier: “We are very excited about the upcoming launch of Es’hail-2, the second in our planned fleet of satellites. Es’hailSat, established in 2010 in Doha, owns and operates satellites to serve broadcasters, businesses and governments. Es’hail-1, launched in 2013, provides television, telecommunication, corporate and government services across the Mena region and beyond. Both Es’hail-1 and Es’hail-2 will be co-located at the 25.5°/26° E TV broadcasting hotspot.
"We are happy to announce that we launched #eshail_2 today with @SpaceX," Es'hailSat tweeted later.
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