SpaceX Launches its Final Version of its Falcon 9 Rocket

After a last-minute scrub on Thursday, the Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 successfully launched from 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
Shelby Rogers
SpaceX via YouTube

After a few hiccups and delayed starts, SpaceX's new Falcon 9 variant the Block 5 finally took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With the new (and possibly final) style of the Falcon 9 was the first satellite ever for the nation of Bangladesh. 

SpaceX recovered the first stage of the rocket, and it touched down cleanly on the Atlantic Ocean barge "Of Course I Still Love You." This marks the 25th time one of SpaceX's used rockets has been recovered. 

The rocket had its share of hangups to get to the successful launch today. Scheduled to launch Thursday, the launch got unexpectedly scrubbed within a minute of its expected launch. SpaceX CEO and Founder Elon Musk spoke to his anxieties about the launch. 

"You know, it could be a thousand things that go right on this rocket, and one that goes wrong, and a passing grade for rockets — the reason that it's so hard to make an orbital rocket work — is that your passing grade is 100 percent," Musk said during yesterday's telecon. "And you can't fully and properly test an orbital rocket until it launches, because you can't recreate those exact conditions on Earth. Everything's sort of a proxy for traveling hypersonically through a vacuum. Yeah. Man. Anyway, I'm stressed." 

There was additional element of stress on Musk and the SpaceX team, as the payload was the $250 million Bangabandhu satellite. Officials in that area expect Bangladesh's first satellite to improve telephone, data, television, Internet, and emergency communications throughout Bangladesh and beyond -- going as far as Indonesia and the Philippines. 

In addition to the satellite, the Falcon 9 launch could represent a major change in the operations and reliability of the SpaceX rockets.

According to the company, the Block 5 variation of the Falcon 9 can safely be re-flown as many as 10 times -- not including refurbishment between launches. This would greatly reduce overall costs of getting payloads into the air.

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The Block 5 is also expected to be a key player in helping SpaceX send humans into space. The company won't allow for humans onboard until it's flown seven successful launches, but with the rate of SpaceX's overall launch and return success, those seven successful launches could happen sooner than expected. 


The Block 5 launch is expected to be the last major upgrade to a workhorse rocket. The Falcon Heavy successfully launched in February, and the Block 5 landed well today. That only leaves one massive project left for SpaceX -- BFR. Musk said his engineering talent will now focus their resources on getting the BFR up and running, and eventually ferrying humans into space. 

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