Today at 4:12 p.m., SpaceX will launch a new rocket from its iconic Falcon 9 fleet called the Block 5, sending into orbit a communications satellite for the Bangladeshi government. The rocket will also attempt to land on a droneship off the coast of Florida about eight minutes after launch.
Yes, SpaceX launches are becoming normalized, but today's flight marks a special milestone for the company and in NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The Falcon 9 Block 5 meets the standards for crewed space missions, and its hardware upgrades dramatically improve upon SpaceX's goal to make rocket reusability and reliability a cost-effective routine.
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Elon Musk says the Block 5 will carry NASA astronauts to space as soon as December 2018, with a few test flights before then. But with the nature of often skewed and overambitious company launch timelines, a mid-2019 launch for crew missions is a more reasonable estimate.
No human has been launched into space from U.S. soil since the last shuttle mission in 2011. Nowadays, NASA sends astronauts to the International Space Station using Russia's Roscosmos space program. When Block 5 proves itself today, the U.S. space program will be one step closer to the first crew mission in years.
The other big competitor working under NASA's crew contract is Boeing, whose crewed missions are slated to follow SpaceX's.
Block 5 will be the final version of the company's Falcon 9 rocket before it shifts focus on Big Falcon Rocket (BFR, aka Big Fucking Rocket), which will ferry astronauts and "colonizers" to Mars.
SpaceX will live-stream the launch here
20 minutes before liftoff, at around 3:50 pm today.
Or, if you're willing to make the drive to the Space Coast, Playalinda Beach
or Exploration Tower
are great viewing locations.
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