SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket on its record-tying 14th mission Saturday (Oct. 8), sending two commercial communications satellites to orbit.
The Falcon 9, topped with Intelsat's Galaxy 33 and Galaxy 34 satellites, lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. EDT (2305 GMT).
The Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth and landed on SpaceX's A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship about 8.5 minutes after launch. The robotic ship was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, a few hundred miles off the Florida coast.
It was the 14th launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description. The rocket previously helped launch the GPS III-3 and Turksat 5A satellites, the Transporter-2 rideshare mission and 10 big batches of SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites.
Fourteen missions is the record for a Falcon 9 first stage, first set just last month during a launch that lofted the BlueWalker 3 communications satellite and 34 Starlinks.
Galaxy 33 was deployed about 33 minutes after liftoff and Galaxy 34 followed suit five minutes later, SpaceX confirmed via Twitter.
The duo "are the next satellites in Intelsat's comprehensive Galaxy fleet refresh plan, a new generation of technology that will provide Intelsat Media customers in North America with high-performance media distribution capabilities and unmatched penetration of cable headends," Luxembourg-based Intelsat wrote in a statement. "It is critical to Intelsat's U.S. C-band clearing strategy."
Saturday's flight was originally supposed to launch on Thursday evening (Oct. 6), but the Falcon 9 initiated an auto abort shortly before the planned liftoff. The abort was caused by a small helium leak, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said via Twitter Thursday. SpaceX then pushed the launch back to Saturday to perform additional vehicle checks.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.