SpaceX launches powerful Indonesian communications satellite in 16th flight this year

On Tuesday, SpaceX achieved yet another milestone with the successful launch of its 16th Falcon 9 rocket this year, carrying a significant Indonesian communications satellite into orbit. This launch, utilizing a first stage embarking on its 17th flight, took place at 3:11 p.m. EST from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The Falcon 9’s first stage executed its ascent, propelling the rocket beyond the dense lower atmosphere before separating and autonomously guiding itself to a precise touchdown on an offshore landing barge approximately eight-and-a-half minutes post-launch. Meanwhile, the second stage continued its journey into space, releasing the Merah Putih 2 satellite to navigate independently 25 minutes later.

Operated by the state-owned Telkomsat, the Merah Putih satellite, with a price tag of $240 million, holds significance for Indonesia, as its name, which translates to “red and white,” pays homage to the country’s flag. Manufactured by Thales Alenia Space, the satellite is equipped to deliver data rates of up to 32 gigabytes per second through its C-band and Ku-band transponders, covering the entirety of Indonesia. With a projected lifespan of 15 years, this satellite represents the second Telkomsat data relay station launched by SpaceX.

This successful launch marked SpaceX’s 16th Falcon 9 mission of the year and the 301st since the rocket’s inaugural flight in 2010. Notably, the company has achieved an impressive 275 successful first stage recoveries, with the last 201 occurring consecutively. If conditions permit, SpaceX anticipates conducting over 140 launches throughout the year.

Looking ahead, SpaceX is poised to conduct two additional Starlink missions by the end of the month, bolstering the total count of broadband data relay stations to nearly 5,900. Following these operations, the company will prepare for the launch of Crew-8, which comprises three NASA astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut, to the International Space Station on March 1. Notably, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule “Endeavour” will embark on its fifth flight, setting a new record for SpaceX’s fleet of crewed spacecraft.

Crew-8, led by Commander Matthew Dominick alongside Michael Barratt, Jeanette Epps, and cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, will replace the Crew-7 team, who were launched to the outpost last August. Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the return of Crew-7 to Earth around March 8, paving the way for the launch of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying veteran cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, Belarus guest flier Marina Vasilevskaya, and NASA veteran Tracy Dyson.