A Falcon 9 booster that flew into space last year is set to launch again Thursday from Florida’s Space Coast with an SES communications satellite on a historic mission that could make major strides in validating SpaceX’s audacious goal of recovering and reusing launchers, an achievement the company says will revolutionize the rocket business. Liftoff is set for 6:27 p.m. EDT (2227 GMT).
SpaceX’s first launch since August took off Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A Falcon 9 rocket deployed the first 10 next-generation Iridium communications satellites, part of a $3 billion upgrade to the company’s space network. Liftoff occurred at 9:54 a.m. PST (12:54 p.m. EST; 1754 GMT), and the Falcon 9’s first stage landed on a barge in the Pacific a few minutes later.
SpaceX rolled a fully-assembled Falcon 9 booster out of its hangar and lifted it on top of a launch pad Friday for the first time since an explosion grounded the commercial rocket last year, setting the stage for a one-second launch window Saturday to take off from California’s Central Coast and deploy the first 10 satellites in orbit for a $3 billion upgrade to Iridium’s globe-spanning message relay network.
The first 10 satellites for Iridium’s next-generation mobile voice and data relay network have been fueled, joined with their deployment module and encapsulated inside the clamshell-like nose cone of a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster for launch as soon as next week from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.