For the first time in six months, SpaceX returns to pad 39A for an afternoon rocket launch. Here's how to watch


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket goes vertical on NASA's Launchpad 39A hours before its Es’hail-2 mission on Nov. 15 2018. - PHOTO BY JOEY ROULETTE
  • Photo by Joey Roulette
  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket goes vertical on NASA's Launchpad 39A hours before its Es’hail-2 mission on Nov. 15 2018.

SpaceX is set to launch its 18th mission this year at 3:46 p.m. today from Kennedy Space Center's launchpad 39A, the iconic site used by NASA's historic Apollo missions that sent humans to the moon.

SpaceX's Es’hail-2 mission will send a communications satellite 22,000 miles into space for state-owned Qatar Satellite Company, providing added communications access for large swaths of the Middle East and North African regions.

The Falcon 9 booster launching Es’hail-2 was previously used in July for the the TELSTAR 19V mission from Cape Canaveral, where it returned back to earth and stuck a landing on SpaceX's drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You, roughly 10 minutes after liftoff.

Today will mark that rocket's second such maneuver: The Falcon 9 will attempt to make another landing on the droneship a few hundred miles off Florida's Atlantic coast after pushing Es’hail-2 into geostationary transfer orbit.

The Es’hail mission is first time in six months SpaceX will use pad 39A. Since the pad's last use in May, SpaceX has added a new "crew access arm" meant to load humans onto its Crew Dragon vehicle, which is on track for its first un-crewed test flight in early 2019.

Weather forecasts cite a 40 percent chance that rain showers or high-level winds could disrupt the 3:46 p.m. liftoff, which would push the launch further into its window until 5:29 p.m. If there's a launch scrub, meaning weather doesn't permit liftoff at all today, the mission will be pushed to tomorrow, Nov. 16, at 3:48 p.m.

How to watch

SpaceX will stream the launch and landing live on its website here 15 minutes before liftoff. If you're willing to make the trek to the Space Coast, Playalinda Beach or Exploration tower offer great viewing locations. If you're stuck in Orlando and still want to see it in person, find an elevated spot like a roof and you'll be able to spot the rocket arching out of the atmosphere.

Follow Joey Roulette on Twitter at @joroulette for live launch updates.

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