SpaceX Successfully Launches Upgraded Falcon 9 Rocket

Posted May 12, 2018

A new version of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket that could eventually take astronauts to space took flight for the first time Friday.

An updated version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, tailored for eventual crewed missions for NASA, made its debut launch on Friday from Florida's Cape Canaveral carrying a communications satellite for Bangladesh into orbit.

The Falcon 9 Block 5 launched the Bangladesh Communications Satellite Co.'s first orbital satellite, dubbed Bangabandhu-1, into orbit.

They will have roughly the same two-hour-plus launch window running from 4:14 p.m.to 6:21 p.m. EDT (2014 GMT to 2221 GMT). The satellite was successfully deployed into geostationary transfer orbit; the Block 5, meanwhile, landed on SpaceX's "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship in the Atlantic.

But Musk has yet more tweaks up his sleeve: He's aiming to make the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket - including its nose cone and second stage - fully reusable, with a turnaround time of as little as 24 hours. Insane hard. We still need to demonstrate it. This new and improved model will be used to launch astronauts for NASA in the coming year. With periodic refurbishment, a single first-stage booster could be capable of executing on the order of 100 flights before its retirement, he said.

Since then, the U.S. government has been forced to rely on Russian Federation to get astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The company says the Block 5 variant can be re-flown as many as 10 times and can be easily refurbished between launches, which would drastically reduce the cost of a single launch.

Musk said greater reusability is already having an impact on SpaceX's famously low pricing for rocket launches. That's more than half of the estimated overall $62 million price of the Falcon 9, according to various trade publications.

"Standing down today due to a standard ground system auto-abort at T-1 min", the company tweeted shortly after the launch was scrubbed". The company will also have to cover the not-inconsequential development costs for the BFR and for SpaceX's Starlink broadband satellite constellation.