Thursday's launch will ferry an SES-10 satellite into geostationary orbit to deliver direct-to-home broadcasting, broadband and mobile services in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America. After the test, the booster for this week's launch was moved to Cape Canaveral, the second stage booster attached on top, and then on Monday underwent a "static fire" burn, a firing of its engines for several seconds. SpaceX made a decision to reuse this booster first, partly because it wanted to hold onto the first Falcon 9 the company landed in December 2015. Elon Musk's commercial space flight company has been mastering the art of landing rockets on solid ground and on drone ships in order to execute its dream of reusing rockets to lessen the cost of space flights.
The first part of that process was mastering the technology and engineering needed to bring a rocket stage from an orbital trajectory back to Earth, and now, the company will need to demonstrate that it really can reuse those boosters.
SpaceX plans its first launch of a reused, or "flight proven", Falcon 9 rocket on March 30, 2017 from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, FL. However, a successful landing could be more challenging with this mission.
The rocket in question is the Falcon 9, which SpaceX launched and successfully landed on a platform floating in the ocean past year.
SpaceX is about to put the heart of its business model to the test: Reusable rockets. It landed successfully on an unmanned drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
A successful launch and recovery of a used rocket will serve as a proof of concept for SpaceX's plans to reuse rockets as a way to save on spaceflight costs. Over the past year, SpaceX has tried to bring the Falcon 9 first stage safely back to Earth 13 times - and succeeded on eight of those attempts.
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On Thursday, March 30, at 6:27 p.m. EDT, the launch window opens for this booster rocket to make its second flight to space. It, however, hasn't reused any of the Falcon 9 rockets it landed back safely till date (one of them is even placed in the front lawns of the company HQ). "We're at the edge of quite a significant bit of history here".
"This is a Wright Brothers moment for space", said Phil Larson, a former space-policy adviser to President Barack Obama who worked for SpaceX and is now at the University of Colorado.
"I think the odds of success are very good".
There is a 70 percent chance for favorable launch conditions Thursday, U.S. Air Force weather officials said. Satellites bound for low-Earth orbit do not typically require as much launch power and the booster has enough propellant left over to fly back to a powered touchdown on land.
The rocket was returned to Cape Canaveral, then trucked back to SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, for thorough inspections and refurbishment.