SpaceX launches most powerful Falcon 9 yet


SpaceX launched an upgraded version of its Falcon 9 rocket from the Space Coast Friday.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on May 11, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch will be webcast by SpaceX here.

While the Block 5 rocket launch did not carry a crew, a crew-carrying version could launch as early as this year. The satellite is expected to expand communication capabilities across Bangladesh and in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia.

After launch, the first-stage booster of the rocket detached and guided itself back to Earth, where it landed safely on a platform in the ocean so it can be flown once again on a future mission.

Now, the company will try to take off Friday, May 10th, during a launch window that runs roughly two hours, from 4:14PM to 6:21PM ET.

For this new model, SpaceX enhanced engine performance, strengthened various parts of the rocket and improved the landing gear system. With periodic refurbishment, a single first-stage booster could be capable of executing on the order of 100 flights before its retirement, he said. "That will be a very, very exciting outcome", he said. As such, Block 5 rockets have been created to conform to NASA's crew-carrying requirements.

Besides missions to the space station, the new rocket will be used to launch U.S. Air Force global positioning satellites and other high-value, military and national security payloads. "The rocket and payload are in good health - the team is striving for a backup transmitter tomorrow".

Friday's flight marked the ninth SpaceX launch so far this year, compared to five orbital-class missions the company had logged at the same point in 2017, according to Musk.

Reusing rockets is key to Musk's grand strategy of lowering the cost of access to space and eventually making it possible to send thousands of settlers to Mars, thus turning humanity into a multiplanetary species. The company will also have to cover the not-inconsequential development costs for the BFR and for SpaceX's Starlink broadband satellite constellation.