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SpaceX Rocket Launches Turkmenistan’s First Satellite

Image: SpaceX launch
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Monday, sending Turkmenistan's first satellite into space. SpaceX

SpaceX launched Turkmenistan's first telecom satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on Monday, after taking a chance on some touch-and-go weather in Florida.

The launch of the TurkmenÄlem 52E spacecraft came just 13 days after SpaceX used a different Falcon 9 to send a Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station.

Monday's launch, like the earlier one, unfolded at Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida — but there were a couple of differences. First, because it wasn't a launch to the space station, SpaceX didn't have to hit a launch time to the second. The weather was too cloudy for liftoff at the scheduled time of 6:14 p.m. ET, but cleared up enough for launch at a revised T-minus-zero of 7:03 p.m.

The second difference is that TurkmenÄlem 52E is destined to go into geosynchronous orbit, to provide telecommunication services to Europe, Central Asia and Africa in cooperation with Monaco-based Space Systems International and Luxembourg-based SES.

The orbital requirements ruled out an attempt to bring the first-stage booster back down for a controlled landing on an oceangoing platform — as was attempted spectacularly but not completely successfully after the Dragon launch. Instead, the first stage dropped away after it did its work and burned up in the atmosphere.

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— Alan Boyle