SpaceX is about to attempt its fifth rocket launch this year, at 3:10am IST today. The Falcon 9 is being used to deliver the THAICOM-8 communication satellite to geo-stationary transfer orbit, at a height of more than 32,000km above the Earth’s surface.
More importantly, however, is that SpaceX once again be attempting to re-land its rocket after the launch is underway. The first stage of the Falcon 9’s 14 stages, which houses the engines and main fuel tank, will detach from the rocket once it reaches orbit, and fall back down to Earth. At this point, just like their last try, SpaceX will attempt to land the rocket stage on an autonomous drone ship, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
Following a few failed landing attempts that began in January last year, Spacex has progressively gotten better with each trial run, culminating in a successful ground landing in December last year, and two successful ship landings in the past two months. The difference with this try, is that the Falcon 9’s orbital target is really high up, meaning the rocket will have much less fuel remaining for the descent than last time, not to mention the extreme re-entry velocity it will have to contend with.
Even if this landing fails, the end result is not a loss to SpaceX, despite the cash drain. The entire exercise is a learning experience along the road to making reusable rockets, that would greatly reduce the necessary budget for every space mission thereafter.
You can check out the livestream for the Falcon 9 launch right below.