spacex falcon 9 echostar 23
A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, carrying the EchoStar 23 satellite. Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched the EchoStar 23 satellite early March 16 on the rare mission that did not attempt a recovery of the rocket’s first stage.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:00 a.m. Eastern. The launch was delayed by about 25 minutes because of upper level wind conditions. Poor weather scrubbed the previous launch attempt March 14.

The rocket’s payload, EchoStar 23, separated from the Falcon 9 upper stage 34 minutes after liftoff, after being inserted into a geostationary transfer orbit. The satellite, built by Space Systems Loral, will ultimately operate at 45 degrees west in geostationary orbit.

The launch was the third this year for SpaceX, and the second from the refurbished pad at KSC previously used for Apollo and shuttle missions. Unlike most other Falcon 9 launches, there was no attempt by SpaceX to land the rocket’s first stage, either on land or on a ship at sea. The heavy mass of the satellite, estimated to be about 5,500 kilograms, kept SpaceX from reserving any first stage propellant for a landing attempt.

EchoStar 23 is designed to serve the Brazilian market with its Ku-band payload. In a Feb. 24 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, EchoStar Corp. said it expected to meet an in-service milestone of the second quarter of 2017 set by Brazilian regulators for use of the Ku-band spectrum on the satellite, assuming a launch by the end of March.

In the same filing, EchoStar said it was seeking an extension of Ka- and S-band in-service milestones, also for the second quarter of 2017, from Brazilian regulators for that same orbital slot. The company cautioned that such an extension “may or may not be granted, and, if granted, may be subject to penalties, additional conditions or other requirements.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...