- Thomson Reuters
SpaceX has been pulling in the wins these past few months. After sticking the landing of an orbital rocket for the first time in December, they stepped it up a notch in April and completed another successful landing, this time on a drone ship in the middle of the ocean.
Now, SpaceX is preparing for another launch. It’ll be their fourth launch this year and they’ll be finishing it off with another barge landing attempt.
The launch is scheduled to take place in the early morning hours of Friday out of SpaceX’s launch site at Cape Canaveral, Florida at 1:21 a.m. EDT. Yes, 1:21 a.m. For those of you eager enough to watch live, you can do so below.
SpaceX initially had the launch scheduled for Thursday at the same time, but they pushed it back a day due to concerns about the weather.
The company’s main mission is to deliver JCSAT-14, a Japanese telecommunications satellite, to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) extremely high above Earth’s surface – a feat that requires more fuel and makes the rocket significantly harder to land.
The satellite will be launched aboard the famed Falcon 9 and join satellite operator Sky Perfect JSAT’s existing fleet of satellites. The satellite will deliver TV programming, high-speed Internet access and cell phone service to customers in the Asia-Pacific region.
SpaceX will once again attempt to salvage the first stage of the Falcon 9 by landing it on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, named after a fictional starship envisioned by legendary sci-fi writer Iain M. Banks.
If they succeed, it’ll be the third time in history that they successfully land one of their rockets and the second time they land successfully on their ocean platform.
But because of the high orbit the rocket is aiming for, SpaceX isn’t optimistic about recreating the magic of its last ocean landing.
“The first-stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing unlikely,” the company said in a statement.
The launch will also require higher speeds and huge amounts of fuel, significantly more than was needed for the lower Earth orbit the Falcon 9 reached before its first successful barge landing. The leftover fuel might not be enough to get the rocket to safely back to Earth.
Musk has said that Space X has “well over a dozen” other launches queued up for this year, including the long-awaited Falcon Heavy in November, which is the rocket the company hopes to use to launch to Mars in 2018.
Live coverage of Friday’s launch will take place shortly before 1:21 a.m. EDT, and you can watch it on YouTube or below: