MELBOURNE, Fla. — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted into a beautiful blue sky over Florida's Atlantic Coast Monday night, hauling a “behemoth” commercial communications satellite from Kennedy Space Center.
Weighing in at nearly 13,500 pounds atop the rocket, the fourth Inmarsat-5 satellite was the heaviest load lofted by a Falcon 9 yet.
The 230-foot rocket delivered the spacecraft larger than a double-decker bus to an orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator.
As a result, SpaceX did not attempt to land the rocket’s first stage either at Cape Canaveral or at sea, and the Falcon 9 booster was not equipped with landing legs.
London-based Inmarsat, which has a Palm Bay, Fla., office with about 200 employees, initially booked the mission on a Falcon Heavy rocket. SpaceX’s heavy-lift launcher could debut later this year, but for schedule reasons the mission was switched to the latest version of the Falcon 9.
The Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 satellite, built by Boeing, completes Inmarsat’s four-satellite Global Xpress constellation focused on delivering high-speed broadband data to mobile customers, including commercial aircraft and ships and the U.S. military.
Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said earlier that “everyone at Inmarsat, SpaceX and Boeing is really, really pumped about this launch. It’s a very significant one for us at Inmarsat, because we call it the end of the beginning of the Global Xpress era.”