SpaceX launches imaging satellite plus own broadband demos

SpaceX launches the Paz Earth observation satellite for Spanish company Hidesat aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a PAZ Earth Observation satellite is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a PAZ Earth Observation satellite is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. PHOTO: REUTERS

MIAMI, Florida (BLOOMBERG) - Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a customer payload plus its own broadband demonstration satellites in the company's first mission since millions tuned in earlier this month for its Falcon Heavy debut.

The Thursday (Feb 22) launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's central Coast carried a radar-imaging satellite for Spain's Hisdesat Servicios Estrategicos.

The PAZ satellite will orbit the planet 15 times a day and collect information - including ship tracking and weather data - for government and commercial customers.

The rocket also carried a pair of SpaceX's own broadband satellites as a secondary payload. Microsat-2a and -2b are the first prototypes for the company's planned constellation of satellites - dubbed Starlink - intended to offer broadband Internet around the world.

"If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served," Musk said in a tweet on Wednesday.

SpaceX's fourth launch in what is expected to be a record year took off from the California pad at around 6.17am local time. SpaceX is targeting roughly 30 total launches this year, including flying its new Falcon Heavy rocket again in June.

The PAZ satellite appeared to deploy successfully during SpaceX's webcast.

The company will not attempt to recover the rocket's first stage after the launch for reuse - it already flew previously in an August mission.

SpaceX will try to catch the rocket's fairing, or nosecone, as it falls back to earth at about eight times the speed of sound, Musk said in an Instagram post.