SpaceX launches Turkey’s Turksat 5B communications satellite

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TAMPA, Fla. — SpaceX successfully launched the Turksat 5B Turkish communications satellite Dec. 18, less than 16 hours after launching a batch of Starlink broadband spacecraft.

Turksat 5B lifted off at 10:58 p.m. Eastern on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The mission for Turkish operator Turksat followed the launch of 52 satellites for SpaceX’s low Earth orbit Starlink constellation on a Falcon 9, which lifted off at 7:41 a.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

It is the first time SpaceX has launched two Falcon 9 rockets on the same day, although Russia has achieved this on numerous occasions with the Soyuz rocket.

The Turksat 5B satellite was launched to geostationary transfer orbit, where it will use onboard electric thrusters to reach 42 degrees east to provide high throughput Ka- and Ku-band services over Turkey, the Middle East and parts of Africa. 

Turksat ordered Turksat 5B from European manufacturer Airbus Defence and Space in 2017.

Shortly after launching Turksat 5B, the Falcon 9 first stage booster successfully landed on a SpaceX drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean for reuse. 

This was the third mission for the booster, which previously supported the uncrewed CRS-22 International Space Station cargo resupply mission June 3, and the Crew-3 mission that launched four astronauts to the ISS Nov. 11.

Turksat 5A — which Turksat also ordered from Airbus Defence and Space in 2017 — launched on a Falcon 9 Jan. 7, kicking off a record-breaking year for SpaceX missions that currently total 30 for 2021, beating the previous record of 26 set in 2020.

SpaceX’s next launch is slated for Dec. 21, when a Falcon 9 is due to lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the CRS-24 mission to the ISS.

On Sept. 17, the Turkish government announced that SpaceX will launch Turksat 6A, Turkey’s first domestically built communications satellite, in the first quarter of 2023.

This article was updated Dec. 19 with more details on SpaceX’s launch history.