Elon Musk Confirms SpaceX EchoStar Launch Either On Falcon Heavy Or Upgraded Falcon 9By Emily Marks, UniversityHerald Reporter
Elon Musk has confirmed that SpaceX's upcoming EchoStar launch will be on its expendable rockets. It will be using either the Falcon Heavy or the upgraded Falcon 9. Ars Technica reported that SpaceX will be having its next launch from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 30. The mission, which will be from a new pad at Launch Complex 39A, will send the EchoStar 23 communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit.
It is a heavy satellite which weighs 5.5 metric tons. Sending it out to about 40,000 kilometers from Earth will use all of the lift capacity of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. This may leave almost no propellant for the Falcon 9 rocket to fire its engines to slow down, make a controlled descent through the atmosphere and have a difficult landing on a drone ship.
Elon Musk answered a question posted on Twitter on whether the Falcon will fly expendable or try low-margin droneship landing. The SpaceX founder confirmed that the EchoStar launch will be on an expendable rocket. He also revealed that future flights will be going on Falcon Heavy or the upgraded Falcon 9.
According to The Verge, SpaceX will not be landing the rocket on its next launch. This will be the first time that the company will not try to land the Falcon 9 post-launch.
SpaceX has always attempted to land its rockets since the start of 2015. It was able to land its first rocket at the end of Dec. 2015 and every single launch has been followed by attempted landings either on a floating drone ship or on a ground-based landing zone. The upcoming EchoStar launch will not leave enough propellant for a landing.
Elon Musk's space company was able to have a successful launch earlier this month. CBS News noted that it was able to lift 10 next-gen Iridium telephone satellites into orbit. This comes after the Falcon 9 rocket explosion last Sep. 1.