Satellite launch took nation to new height, says President

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The Falcon 9 Block 5 launched the Bangladesh Communications Satellite Co.'s first orbital satellite, dubbed Bangabandhu-1, into orbit.

May 12 is a red-letter day for Bangladesh when the country moved to a new era by launching its first "Bangabandhu-1" satellite. SpaceX landed the rocket's first stage back on a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood earlier said Falcon-9 will pull the 3.7-tone satellite vertically up to 36,000km from the launch pad before making adjustments for orbit. It was originally planned on Thursday, but it was aborted about 60 seconds before launch.

This latest and final version of the company's Falcon 9 rocket - capable of more than 10 reflights, possibly even 100 - made its debut Friday.

By the end of 2017, Musk aims to launch two missions with the same rocket in the span of 24 hours.

The rocket had its share of hangups to get to the successful launch today.

"Bangladesh started a glorious chapter in the history with the launching of Bangabandhu-1 satellite as it has become a proud member of the satellite club from today", the President said in a message as quoted a saying by The Daily Star. The company won't allow for humans onboard until it's flown seven successful launches, but with the rate of SpaceX's overall launch and return success, those seven successful launches could happen sooner than expected.

"With the launch of Bangabandhu-1, we are hoisting our national flag into space".

In addition, the upgraded Falcon 9 is more powerful than the previous versions, thanks to the nine Merlin engines in the rocket's first stage and the single "vacuum Merlin" in the second stage.

The Block-5 also marks another milestone for Musk's California-based company.

SpaceX boss Elon Musk said Block 5 will be the last major upgrade to the Falcon series, and any changes in future will be incidental and minor.

SpaceX is one of two private companies hired by NASA to ferry astronaut crews to the space station.

The satellite's coverage area includes Bangladesh and other countries, including India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia, according to a Thales statement.

SpaceX has signed a United States dollars 2.6 billion contract with the NASA to complete development of Crew Dragon, a capsule to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.