SpaceX successfully launches its most powerful Falcon 9 rocket
The Falcon 9 rocket, after a takeoff on April 19, 2018 from Cape Canaveral, Florida
US-based SpaceX on Friday launched its new-generation Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket carrying Bangladesh’s first high-altitude communications satellite, Bangabandhu Satellite-1.
“Takeoff,” tweeted the company shortly after the rocket left its firing point at Cape Canaveral, Florida at the scheduled time, local 4:14 pm (8:14 pm GMT).
SpaceX had been forced to postpone the planned shooting initially Thursday, the countdown was automatically interrupted less than a minute before the scheduled time of launch. The company had tweeted soon after: “Today’s stop due to a self-canceling ground system a minute before the time” of take-off.
This is the maiden flight of this next-generation rocket, touted as more powerful and easier to reuse than its sister Falcon 9.
This launcher is intended to propel humans to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard an inhabited version of the Dragon capsule under development. For now, only an unmanned version of Dragon exists to supply the ISS and bring back equipment and experiments on Earth.
The first manned flight is tentatively scheduled for December 2018.
When it comes, it will be the first time since the end of the US space shuttle program in 2011 that a ship carrying human beings will take off from the United States.
The next-generation rocket is scheduled to be reused up to ten times with minimal maintenance after each shot, Elon Musk, SpaceX boss told the press on Thursday. “We expect there to be no intervention between the flights, just like for an airplane”.
“It took –oh, it started in 2002– sixteen years of extreme efforts, many, many repetitions and thousands of small but important changes to get to the point where we think it’s in the field possible, “he continued.
Block 5 is the ultimate update to the Falcon 9 launch fleet. SpaceX will then focus on its next generation of powerful launchers, called BFRs.
This is the ninth shot made by the company this year. The first stage of the rocket then landed as expected on the barge parked in the Atlantic Ocean, called “Of Course I Still Love You”.
SpaceX has now recovered eleven of its launchers on land and fourteen on a barge at sea, as part of its efforts to limit the cost of launches by recycling part of the rockets.