SpaceX rocket launches Inmarsat satellite

SpaceX launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rises from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, sending an Inmarsat satellite into space. (SpaceX via YouTube)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket today launched the Inmarsat-5 F4 telecommunications satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit ranging beyond 22,000 miles in height – so high that there was no chance to bring the first-stage booster back for a landing.

The rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at the beginning of the launch window, at 7:21 p.m. ET (4:21 p.m. PT).

Over the past year, SpaceX has made Falcon 9 booster landings seem almost routine. But missions aimed at putting satellites in geostationary orbits typically require so much oomph that there’s not enough fuel for a controlled descent.

Instead, the first stage tumbled back down to crash harmlessly into the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX didn’t even bother to install landing legs on the rocket.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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