SpaceX thrusts Spanish military satellite into orbit
Elon Musk's SpaceX sent a Spanish military satellite into orbit on 22 February in a day late liftoff from California, extending the private space company's record of successful launches.
SpaceX, which proved the utility of its massive Falcon Heavy rocket earlier in February 2018, put up the Paz imaging satellite and two of the company's own test internet communications satellites on a smaller Falcon 9 rocket.
About nine minutes after liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central California coast, SpaceX said: ‘Successful deployment of PAZ satellite to low-Earth orbit confirmed.’
The Paz satellite, from the Spanish government-controlled Hisdesat satellite operator, was sent into a low-earth orbit vertically circling the north and south poles, giving it a constant sunlit view of the earth's surface below.
The launch took place a day later than planned; liftoff was scrubbed on 21 February due to high winds in the upper atmosphere.
Besides the Paz satellite, the rocket carried two dummy satellites representing Musk's plan to place a thousands of low-cost satellites in orbit to provide global broadband internet service, including to poorly served low-income countries.
In the launch on 22 February, SpaceX did not attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a sea-anchored barge as it had with the 7 February Falcon Heavy launch.
Instead it tested the ability to catch the falling nose cone from the rocket on a small ship mounted with a massive trampoline like those set up as safety nets under circus aerialists.
The faring was to descend with a guided para-foil to slow its speed and carry it into the ship.