Late in the afternoon on Thursday, November 15th, 2018 SpaceX successfully launched one of their Falcon 9 rockets carrying a communications satellite for the Qatari based customer, Es’hailSat. Along with successfully delivering the satellite to orbit SpaceX also nailed their secondary mission objective, landing their first stage booster on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You.
The launch conditions looked questionable for some of the day as there was a frontal system moving through the area early in the morning. As members of the media arrived on site to set up remote cameras at the historic Launch Complex 39-A launch pad the frontal clouds passed over Kennedy Space Center. It created a dramatic scene of the Vehicle Assembly Building as captured in this photo below caught by photographer Marcus Cote. Conditions were windy and misty rainy throughout most of the morning and did not look to improve much throughout the day.
As the countdown clock ticked away the clouds lingered over the Space Coast. Rockets can certainly be launched during cloudy conditions, however the main concern for launch conditions violation this day was the upper level winds that were brought along with the frontal system. In this time lapse below you can see the thicker clouds hanging out for most of the day. About 6 minutes prior to launch, however, the sky began to clear. As members of the press congregated outside the Kennedy Space Center Press the sun began peeking through and almost magically the weather conditions improved drastically. As you can see in the time lapse below captured by by @WTMPhoto on twitter.
The launch was given GO status by the SpaceX Launch Director, range, and weather. The launch occurred precisely on time at 3:46pm EST. The Falcon 9 soared into a cloudy blue sky over Florida’s Space Coast. About 8 minutes later the booster returned to Earth for a successful landing on the droneship about 400 miles off the Florida Coast.
The primary mission of this launch was to ensure the healthy delivery of the Qatari Es’hail-2 satellite to orbit, which SpaceX pulled off perfectly about 32 minutes after launch.
As explained by SpaceX “In addition to offering Ku-band resources to support the growing 25.5⁰E / 26.0°E broadcast neighborhood, Es’hail-2 also features multi-transponder Ka-band capacity, providing business and government sectors with secure communications across the Middle East and North Africa region. In partnership with leading service providers, Es’hailSat will offer a portfolio of broadcast and VSAT services to support business growth. The spacecraft’s multi-mission architecture will enable Es’hailSat to respond to demand for the fastest growing applications in the Middle East and North Africa, including content transfer, broadcast distribution, enterprise communications, and government services.”
For more photos visit the Es'hail-2 Launch gallery under the Gallery tab.