Published: Fri, May 11, 2018
Science | By

SpaceX launches Falcon 9 Block 5

SpaceX launches Falcon 9 Block 5

Thursday's launch is meant to put the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 into geostationary transfer orbit shortly after the rocket launches from Earth.

The rocket has redesigned helium tanks to prevent a recurrence of the launch pad explosion of September 2016. The spacecraft was built by the Franco-Italian company Thales Alenia Space, and will provide TV broadcasts and telecom services throughout southeast Asia.

But most eyes will be focused on the shiny new 23-story rocket carrying the satellite.

SpaceX has pushed back the first flight of its Falcon Heavy rocket for a paying customer by several months to October but is scheduled to launch an updated Falcon 9 Thursday afternoon.

Following the launch, SpaceX planned to attempt to recover the first stage of the rocket on one of its droneships stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Engineers have steadily improved the rocket over time, making it taller, shaving unnecessary weight, and giving the engines more power.

Concept image of the spaceship portion of SpaceX's "Big Falcon Rocket", or BFR, blasting off from the surface of Mars. Company officials have said the Block 5 model could potentially be used 10 times or more, while the current Falcon 9s have never been used more than twice.

"I'm stressed. Any good wishes would be appreciated", Musk said.

Elon Musk has referred to Block 5 as the "finished version" of its reusable Falcon 9 rockets. But first it needs at least 7 successful launches before NASA will approve the rocket for human cargo.

Forecasters are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch attempt. If there's a delay, the company may try again on Friday at 4:14 p.m. ET.

According to sources at SpaceX, the satellite will be launched early May 11 in-between 2:12 to 4:22 am (BST).

The Falcon 9 block 5 is meant for quicker reuse and reportedly will have a stronger heat shield and new landing legs, among other improvements.

The second stage's MVac engine - a vacuum-optimized Merlin 1D - will ignite at T+2mins 36secs to take the Bangabandhu-1 satellite to its initial orbit.

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