SpaceX (SPACE) is set to launch a Bangladeshi satellite today atop a Falcon 9 Block 5 - the latest and final major upgrade to the rocket. The launch window was set to stay open until 6:21 p.m. EDT, according to SpaceX.
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If the launch goes as planned, it will be a promising sign for SpaceX's wider plan of conducting manned missions with rockets that can be reused up to 100 times in a single lifespan. SpaceX CEO and Grimes' new soulmate Elon Musk says the Block 5 will carry NASA astronauts to space as soon as December, 2018, with a few test flights before then.
On board for Thursday's mission: Bangabandhu-1, Bangladesh's first-ever geostationary communications satellite.
It's created to reduce the country's digital divide in both big cities and rural areas by providing internet, television and other communication services.
Block 5 represents the final suite of upgrades to its workhorse launch system that CEO Elon Musk says is created to be flown up to 100 times.
Forecasters are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch attempt. 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.
It's clear that the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Block 5 launch is going to be a major step forward for the company, and may serve to finally establish the company as a provider of economically viable spaceflight.More news: ETFs React to Nestle and Starbucks Joining Forces
This goal can only be achieved if the new Falcon 9 version can really be reuse faster and easier.
The Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission will be the first to use SpaceX's shiny new Falcon 9 Block 5, which is an upgrade to its Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
The satellite, apart from improving the communication services in Bangladesh, will also aid neighbouring Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan.
Enhanced rocket reusability also is a core tenet of Musk's broader objectives for normalizing space travel and ultimately sending humans to Mars. The helium is used to pressurize the propellant tanks and provide the muscle needed for steering.
The total cost of one of its Falcon 9 launches is estimated to reach £44 million ($61m), while each of its larger Falcon Heavy flights costs £65 million ($90m). The new tanks are created to eliminate that failure mode and are required for NASA's commercial crew program. It has more powerful engines and better heat shielding at the base of the rocket.
-Retractable black landing legs, compared to the Block 4's white ones.
'Block 5 is being qualified for 10+ flights, but we'll continue to expand for more, ' Lambert said.