SpaceX rocket launches European TV satellite, makes 250th droneship landing (video)

SpaceX successfully launched a European TV satellite into orbit and then achieved its 250th landing on an ocean-based droneship.

A Falcon 9 rocket launched Luxembourg-based telecom company SES' Astra 1P satellite from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Thursday (June 20) at 5:35 p.m. EDT (2135 GMT).  The liftoff had originally been scheduled for Tuesday, but weather concerns at the launch site forced SpaceX to stand down two days.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SES ASTRA 1P mission to geosynchronous transfer orbit lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Thursday, June 20, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

The Falcon 9's first stage came down for a landing, touching down about 8.5 minutes after liftoff on the droneship called "Just Read the Instructions," which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. 

It was the ninth launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description, and the company's 250th droneship landing overall. 

The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, delivered Astra 1P to geosynchronous transfer orbit about 35 minutes after launch. The satellite will make its own way to geostationary orbit, 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) above Earth.

SES' Astra 1P satellite is seen before encapsulation inside the payload fairing of its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The satellite was launched on June 20, 2024. (Image credit: SES/SpaceX)

After a checkout period, Astra 1P will provide TV broadcasting service to customers throughout Europe. (Astra 1P has nothing to do with the American spaceflight company Astra, by the way; SES chose "Astra" as the name of one of its satellite families.)

The Astra 1P launch was SpaceX's 62nd orbital mission of the year. Mission number 61, a Starlink satellite launch from Vandenberg Space Force Station in California, lifted off on Tuesday evening (June 18).

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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.