(Update, 6:48 pm Eastern: The Falcon 9 first stage successfully landed on the drone barge. See Tweet below).
SpaceX is set to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday that, in a first for the company, features a first stage that was used on a previous flight.
The company first used the rocket stage almost a year earlier during an April 8, 2016 launch. It landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean after boosting an unmanned Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. The landing was the first successful sea landing for SpaceX, after three previous attempts failed.
The planned launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39-A in Florida (which was previously used for Apollo and Space Shuttle missions) is scheduled to lift-off at 6:27 pm Eastern. The two-stage rocket, in its Full Thrust version, will carry the SES-10 communication satellite into orbit, which will provide television services to Central and South America, along with the Caribbean.
SpaceflightNow gave a preview of the launch on Thursday. They pointed out that “Thursday’s launch will be the first time an orbital-class commercial rocket has been reused.” SpaceX plans to repeat what they did in 2016 with the same rocket stage — conduct two controlled burns of its Merlin engines, so that it lands on a drone ship in the Atlantic. During its flight to the drone ship, the rocket stage will also deploy steering fins and landing legs.
The website also cited an official at SES, the European company that owns the satellite, who emphasized that any risk from the previously-used rocket stage “has been blunted by months of inspections, refurbishment and engineering reviews.”
SpaceX will begin a live hosted webcast of the countdown, launch, and landing beginning around 6:07 pm Eastern (see video above). A “technical” webcast with just the audio feed of the ground controllers and video of the rocket is also available here.
Update, 6:48 pm Eastern: the Falcon 9 first stage landed successfully on SpaceX’s drone ship.
— 45th Space Wing (@45thSpaceWing) March 30, 2017
[image via screengrab]
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