SpaceX launches Falcon 9, lands rocket booster

Rocket carrying Korean satellite

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – SpaceX launched its 16th mission this year, doubling last year's total.

A Korean telecommunications satellite sat atop a 230-foot Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center’s historic pad 39A, the former launch site for moon rockets and space shuttles, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

The Falcon 9 is carrying the the roughly 8,000-pound Koreasat-5A to an orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator.

Minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first stage dropped from space to the deck of an unpiloted ship floating offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. The tail-down landing on the "drone ship" was the 19th by a Falcon booster in less than two years since SpaceX first accomplished the feat.

That total includes three touchdowns on legs by rockets flying for a second time, as SpaceX works to prove large, orbital rockets can be reused.

The all-new Falcon 9 is carrying the fifth satellite owned by KT SAT, a Seoul-headquartered subsidiary of KT Corp., Korea’s largest telecommunications and media services company.

Parked in an orbital position at 113 degrees east longitude, the satellite built in France by Thales Alenia Space will provide television and Internet services in Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

KT SAT’s fourth satellite, Koreasat-7, also built by Thales, launched in May aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket.

The upcoming mission is expected to take roughly 30 minutes from liftoff to the satellite’s deployment in an initial orbit reaching as high as 37,000 miles. The spacecraft will circularize its orbit over nearly two weeks.

SpaceX's 16th launch of 2017 — including a dozen from Florida — would match the most flown in a calendar year by rival United Launch Alliance. The Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture flew as often in 2009.

SpaceX plans at least three more flights this year, at least two of them from the Space Coast.

One of those, a resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA, will be the first mission in more than a year to blast off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The site has been undergoing repairs and upgrades since a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on its pad there on Sept. 1, 2016.