SpaceX is planning to launch its fifth rocket of the year this Thursday at 5:40 p.m. ET.
The Falcon 9 rocket will be launching out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying a communications satellite called that weighs nearly 7,000 lbs. As of Tuesday afternoon, weather conditions look good for the launch.
Once up, the satellite, which was built by aerospace manufacturer Orbital ATK for Thailand’s first satellite operator Thaicom PLC, will provide TV and internet services to Southeast Asia.
SpaceX’s track record for launches has been nearly flawless this year, with four successful launches and three successful landings (and retrievals!) of the first stage of the rockets. One of those successes took place on land in December; two more happened in April and May at sea.
SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic. If it succeeds, it will be:
- The fourth successful retrieval of the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket
- The third successful at-sea landing
- The second successful landing after launching to the extremely high geostationary orbit, more than 22,000 miles above Earth’s equator
During SpaceX’s last launch, Elon Musk admitted he wasn’t sure if they’d stick the landing, citing the extreme heat and velocity the rocket faced upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
But it did. And although it was a hugely surprising success, the re-landed first stage suffered “maximum damage,” meaning it’s not going back to space again anytime soon. Instead, SpaceX plans to use the rocket for ground tests.
Perfecting the landing of the first stage of its Falcon 9 rockets brings SpaceX closer to its ultimate goal: Making these rockets reusable, and thereby dramatically cutting the cost of spaceflight. This launch will give it yet another opportunity to prove that it can achieve this.
A report in Florida Today states that the weather conditions for the flight are looking to be near-perfect, with US Air Force meteorologists predicting a 90% chance of favourable conditions for launch.