Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched its first rocket of the year Thursday, sending a Turkish broadcasting satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Turksat 5A satellite was originally set for 5:28 p.m. California time, but it was delayed for about 45 minutes before successfully heading into space.
Following the launch, SpaceX again landed the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on a barge, named Just Read the Instructions, floating in the Atlantic Ocean for use in future missions. The rocket used in the launch had already flown three previous missions.
Both halves of the rocket’s fairing — the nose cone that protects the satellite payload as it is carried into space — had also been used in previous missions.
The satellite carried into orbit is the first of two expected to provide broadcast service and improved internet service for Turkey and the Middle East, as well as parts of Africa and Southern Europe, according to news reports out of Turkey. The second satellite, Turksat 5B, is scheduled for launch later this year, also aboard a SpaceX rocket.
Hundreds of Armenian activists staged a protest at SpaceX’s Hawthorne headquarters in October to denounce the company’s launch contract with Turkey, unsuccessfully calling on the firm to sever ties with the country.
In 2020, SpaceX launched a record 26 Falcon 9 missions. According to Space.com, the company is looking to make as many as 40 launches in 2021, from both Cape Canaveral and California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.