When payloads are heavy and require a high orbit, this generation of Falcon 9 rockets has to sacrifice some of its showmanship, i.e., those amazing first stage landings that have become the highlight reel for SpaceX launch missions.
SpaceX’s launch of EchoStar 23 into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), now rescheduled from January 26th to “early February”, will be subject to this limitation with a payload of approximately 5500kg on Falcon 9’s 8,300 kg capable rocket. Why? There’s not much fuel left after all that heavy lifting, thus rendering a low success probability for a landing.
In response to a tweet from a SpaceX fan inquiring about this limitation for the upcoming January 30th launch, Elon Musk confirmed that the EchoStar 23 mission will be flown “expendable”, meaning that the booster will not be recovered. Bummer for those looking forward to the futuristic-type landings, but such sacrifices won’t be around much longer. Yes, we have been spoiled.
@gdoehne Expendable. Future flights will go on Falcon Heavy or the upgraded Falcon 9.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 21, 2017
The “upgraded Falcon 9” Musk referred to is the “Block 5” mentioned during his October 23, 2016 “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. This will be the final upgrade to the Falcon 9 architecture scheduled to go into service later this year. The current version is Falcon-9 1.2.
Don’t worry, the naming scheme confuses us, too.
@gdoehne @reddit Yes. Block 5 is the final upgrade of the Falcon architecture. Significantly improves performance & ease of reusability. Flies end of year.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 22, 2017
Stay tuned for more SpaceX coverage as they continue to make history.
Echostar 23 launch on Falcon 9 from 39A now "Early February". Target moving right every few days based on pad readiness for Static Fire.
— Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) January 23, 2017