BulgariaSat-1 is a geostationary communications satellite meant to be located at the Bulgarian orbital position, which will provide direct-to-home television (DTH) and data communications services to South East Europe and other European regions. "Good chance rocket booster doesn't make it back", Musk commented before the 3:10 p.m. launch.
These are the eighth and ninth Falcon 9 launches for SpaceX this year, as the private company aims to prove that its reusable rockets can cut both the costs and turnaround times for extraterrestrial missions. But a successful landing after launch may be hard because the Geo Stationary Transfer Orbit requires the first stage rocket to reach a significantly higher altitude than other recovered missions.
The satellite is BulgariaSat-1, which is owned and operated by Bulgarian TV service provider Bulsatcom.
SpaceX recovered the Iridium-1 booster after launching from Kennedy Space Center. The satellite will be released high above the Earth and will continue to orbit.
The second batch of 10 satellites is now scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Sunday (June 25), making a weekend doubleheader for SpaceX. It's also the same pad Elon Musk and SpaceX are planning to use for their first mission to Mars. The landing attempt should happen about 8 minutes after takeoff. Safety and mission success were critical in the design of the Falcon 9 rocket. "We look forward to BulgariaSat-1 making history as the second satellite ever to launch on a Falcon 9 that has flown a previous mission".
"Falcon 9 will experience its highest ever re-entry force and heat in today's launch".
"While this is still a secondary objective, this landing is going to prove to be extra challenging for us", said SpaceX engineer John Federspiel during the launch pre-show. Evidence has also emerged in the last few weeks that SpaceX heavily undercuts the United Launch Alliance in overall pricing, though this was generally suspected given public information and known cost structures. SpaceX is now regularly recovering the 14-story-tall-boosters, including five times by land and six times at sea.