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SpaceX launches communications satellite for Turkey

By Allen Cone

Dec. 19 (UPI) -- SpaceX launched a communication satellite for Turkey late Saturday at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The private company's Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from its Space Launch Complex 40 at 10:58 p.m., carrying the Turksat 5B.

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About nine minutes later, the first stage touched down on SpaceX's drone ship, A Shortfall of Graviatas, off Florida's coast. In all SpaceX has three drone ships.

Since SpaceX recovered its first rocket in 2015, there have been 99 successful touchdowns, including 76 at sea.

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The Turksat 5B spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9's upper stage approximately 32 minutes after liftoff.

The spacecraft lit up the night sky amid a full moon.

It was the 30th launch of the year for SpaceX, including the third flight for the B1067 booster. It carried two Dragon spacecraft -- a crewless cargo resupply mission in June, then a mission with four astronauts that went to the International Space Station.

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Saturday's launch included the 9,900-pound Turkish satellite with a planned lifespan of 35 years of broadband to the Middle East, Europe and parts of Africa.

Turksat 5B satellite will provide more than 50 gigabits per second of capacity, according to Airbus Defense and Space, the satellite's manufacturer. It will reached its orbital spot in 164 days and 45-day test process will begin.

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European firm Airbus Defense and Space built the satellite in England and France, with significant Turkish contributions.

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SpaceX launched Turksat 5A, in January, the company's first flight of the year.

"Today, we launched Turksat 5B, the most powerful and highest-capacity communication satellite of our country, into space," President Recep Tayyip Erdogane said in a video message.

"In this way, broadband satellite internet services will be provided to users within the coverage area, including on land, sea and air vehicles in regions where internet access is limited."

Erdogan hailed the launch as another "moment of pride for Turkey and the Turkish nation."

On Thursday, Erdogan participated in a video call with Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX.

He thanked Musk for not bowing down to "the blackmail and pressure of the anti-Turkey lobbies."

Early Saturday morning on the West Coast, SpaceX launched one of the company's oldest boosters, a first stage known as B1051 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

On Tuesday morning in Florida, SpaceX is scheduled to launch a different Falcon 9 rocket with a cargo Dragon spacecraft into space for NASA. This is the last scheduled flight of the year.

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