SpaceX launches Italian Earth observation satellite

(ORDO NEWS) — A SpaceX Falcon 9 two-stage rocket carrying a second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed FM2 (CSG-2) satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Monday (January 31) at 6:11 pm ET (2311 GMT).

SpaceX originally planned to launch the satellite on Thursday (January 27), but bad weather prevented the launch for three days. On Sunday (January 30), mother nature finally came forward, but the cruise ship strayed into a “no-go zone” below Cape Canaveral, forcing the company to once again abandon the launch.

However, on Monday everything worked out. The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on time, and its first stage made a soft landing at Cape Canaveral just under eight minutes after liftoff. The second stage, meanwhile, continued to place CSG-2 into orbit, and eventually carried the satellite out as planned 60 minutes after launch.

The booster landing was the 104th SpaceX has accomplished so far during an orbital flight, SpaceX production manager Jesse Anderson said during a launch webcast on Monday.

This particular first stage has already flown twice as a side booster on SpaceX’s massive Falcon Heavy rocket. Anderson said today’s launch marked the first time that a heavy rocket’s side booster has been reconfigured and launched on its own as a Falcon 9.

Such reuse is key to SpaceX’s long-term goals of lowering the cost of space travel enough to make ambitious exploration feats like colonizing Mars economically viable. On Monday, SpaceX also planned to recover the CSG-2 mission payload fairing — the protective “nose cone” that surrounds the payload during launch — for future reuse, Anderson said.

The second generation Cosmo-SkyMed program is funded by the Italian Space Agency, the Italian Ministry of Defense and the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research. The system consists of two satellites that are designed to observe the Earth using synthetic aperture radar (SAR).

CSG is an improved continuation of the original Cosmo-SkyMed system.

“The goal of the second generation COSMO-SkyMed program is to monitor the Earth for emergency prevention, strategy, scientific and commercial purposes, provide data on a global scale to support various applications, including risk management, mapping, forest and environmental protection, natural resource exploration, land administration, defense and security, maritime surveillance, food and agriculture management,” the representatives of the European Space Agency wrote in the program description.


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