SpaceX launches SES-22 communications satellite, lands rocket at sea

SpaceX launched a commercial communications satellite and landed a rocket on a ship at sea on Wednesday (June 29).

A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Wednesday at 5:04 p.m. EDT (2104 GMT), carrying the SES-22 communication satellite toward orbit. 

About 8.5 minutes after launch, the Falcon 9's first stage came back down to Earth for a pinpoint touchdown on the SpaceX droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

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It was the second launch and landing for this Falcon 9 first stage, which previously helped loft a batch of SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites, SpaceX said in a mission description.

The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, continued hauling SES-22 toward a geosynchronous transfer orbit, ultimately deploying the satellite there 33.5 minutes after liftoff as planned.

SES-22 will be operated by the Luxembourg-based telecom company SES. The satellite "will deliver TV and radio to millions of American homes and provide other critical data transmission services," SES representatives wrote in an emailed statement.

"SES-22 is expected to start operations by early August 2022," they added.

SES-22's launch was the 27th of the year for SpaceX and the 161st flight of a Falcon 9 overall. It was also the first of two planned liftoffs from American soil within about eight hours of each other. SES-22 will be followed by "Straight Up," a seven-satellite mission that Virgin Orbit plans to launch from Mojave Air and Space Port in southeastern California.

"Straight Up" is scheduled to lift off during a window that opens at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT) on Thursday (June 30). You can watch that mission — which will employ LauncherOne, a rocket that ignites at altitude after being dropped by a carrier plane — here at when the time comes.

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.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.