SpaceX is scheduled to launch their newly upgraded Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 19, according to a tweet by CEO Elon Musk:
Aiming for Falcon rocket static fire at Cape Canaveral on the 16th and launch about three days later
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 10, 2015
It will be the first time that SpaceX has flown since one of the Falcon 9 rockets exploded last July during a payload mission to the International Space Station.
The launch will ferry 11 satellites to low-earth orbit, about 600 miles above the surface. The satellites belong to the telecommunications company Orbcomm Inc.
This will be the second time that SpaceX has teamed up with Orbcomm. In 2014, they flew six Orbcomm satellites into orbit.
For SpaceX fans, the most exciting part about the upcoming launch will be what happens after one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets (shown below) has successfully delivered its payload.
After launching the satellites, SpaceX will attempt to retrieve the first stage of its two-stage Falcon 9 rocket. They will do this by attempting to re-land it.
If they succeed, it will be the first time that a rocket capable of ferrying payloads into low-earth orbit could be reused. Such a feat would save SpaceX the tens of millions of dollars it costs to build a brand new rocket.
Where that revolutionary landing will take place, however, is unclear. The last two times SpaceX attempted this, they used an self-driving drone ship (shown below) that was located miles off the Atlantic coastline.
Both times, the rocket managed to reach the ship’s platform, but the rocket either landed too quickly and exploded or tipped over after touch down — and also exploded.
But this third landing attempt could be different, according to a tweet from Musk last month, where he wrote “Orbital water landing 2014. Orbital land landing next.”
Instead of landing on the drone ship, Musk wants to try and land the rocket on land at Cape Canaveral, where the rocket will launch.
But to try this, SpaceX will need to gain clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). So far, it’s unclear whether or not they have done this.
According to CosmosRevealed on Twitter, there’s no official word from either SpaceX or the FAA, but there will be a landing attempt on the drone ship, at the very least:
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