SpaceX counts down to first rocket launch since ship blast
SpaceX on Sunday counted down to its first rocket launch since an explosion after liftoff destroyed its unmanned Dragon cargo ship bound for the International Space Station six months ago.
The Falcon 9 rocket is poised to launch at 829PM (0129 GMT Monday) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, announced the California-based company headed by Internet tycoon Elon Musk.
The goal of the mission is to deliver 11 satellites to low-Earth orbit for ORBCOMM, a communications company.
After launch, SpaceX also plans to attempt to return the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket to an upright position on land for the first time, a milestone it sees as key on the path toward making rockets as reusable as commercial airplanes one day.
“If successful, this test would mark the first time in history an orbital rocket has successfully achieved a land landing,” SpaceX said in a statement.
Several previous attempts at landing the rocket on a floating ocean platform have failed, but SpaceX says each try has taught them more about how to succeed in the future.
SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9 at a former US Air Force rocket and missile testing range that was last used in 1978.
The range is known as Landing Zone 1, and was formerly called Space Launch Complex 13.
Last month, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos -- who owns the rocket company Blue Origin -- announced he had successfully landed his New Shepard rocket after a suborbital flight.
New Shepard flew to a lower altitude than the Falcon 9, making the landing an easier feat for Bezos’s rocket than it would be for Musk’s, analysts say.
Both companies are aiming to boost savings and efficiency in modern rocketry by creating a new generation of rockets that can be reused after launch.
Presently, rocket components costing many millions of dollars are jettisoned as debris after each launch.
“Currently looking good for a Sunday night (~8pm local) attempted orbital launch and rocket landing at Cape Canaveral,” Musk wrote on Twitter late Saturday.
On June 28, the Falcon 9 exploded just over two minutes after launching from Cape Canaveral, also destroying its Dragon cargo ship loaded with supplies for the astronauts living in space.
Musk said the blast was due to a faulty strut.
The accident came after a series of successful launches for SpaceX, which was the first commercial outfit to send a cargo craft to space under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.