SpaceX launches 2 communications satellites, lands rocket at sea

SpaceX launched two satellites for the telecom company SES today (April 28) and landed the rocket at sea and you can watch the action live.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SES' O3b mPower 3 and 4 satellites lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 6:12 p.m. EDT (2212 GMT). 

The SpaceX launch came after a one-hour delay during a countdown in which a dismal weather outlook with only a 20% chance of favorable weather improved to a more encouraging 70% chance of good conditions.

Related: 8 ways that SpaceX has transformed spaceflight

SpaceX launched 2 SES communications satellites on from  Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on April 28, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth just under nine minutes after liftoff with a vertical touchdown on the SpaceX droneship Just Read the Instructions, which was be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.

"That landing marked SpaceX's 188th recovery of an orbital class rocket, including first-stage landings of Falcon 9 and Heavy," SpaceX propulsion engineer Youmei Zhou said during launch commentary.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket first-stage booster nears its landing droneship Just Read The Instructions after successfully launch two SES 03b mPower satellites  into orbit from Florida on April 28, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

It was the second liftoff and touchdown for this particular booster, acccording to a SpaceX mission description. It previously launched Crew-6, SpaceX's most recent astronaut mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, continued hauling O3b mPower 3 and 4 to medium Earth orbit. The two satellites were successfully deployed seven minutes apart about two hours after launch.

SES' two 03b mPower satellites are seen stacked atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket for launch. (Image credit: SES)

As their names suggest, the two satellites launching today will become the third and fourth members of SES' O3b mPower constellation, which will provide low-latency communications services to customers around the word, according to Luxembourg- and France-based SES.

The 11-satellite network is being assembled at an altitude of 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers). Two satellites are already up there — O3b mPower 1 and 2, which launched on a Falcon 9 last December. That was a landmark mission for SpaceX, the 200th orbital flight for the company since its 2002 founding. 

Friday's liftoff was the 29th of 2023 for SpaceX and its 229th launch overall. It was also the second launch of the week, following a successful launch of 46 Starlink internet satellites

The company attempted to launch its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket for the sixth time ever on the same day, but aborted that attempt about 1 minute before liftoff. The next attempt for that mission will be on April 30., weather permitting, from NASA's Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Editor's note: This story was updated on April 29 to include more details about the successful launch of SpaceX's 03b mPower mission for SES.

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 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.