SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches today (Dec 3, 2017) on its record 12th mission since it debuted in 2010, carrying 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit for Iridium Communications. Liftoff took place at 8:13 am ET from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as the Iridium-4 mission began its third and final launch attempt in two days.
Two prior launch attempts were scrubbed due to high winds and fog at the SLC-4E launchpad, but today’s weather conditions were near perfect with light winds and clear skies all the way to launch time.
1) Watch Live
SpaceX is scheduled to launch its next resupply mission to International Space Station (ISS) Monday at 5:55 p.m. EDT (2255 GMT). If all goes according to plan, it will be SpaceX’s 12th flight of a used booster and its seventh commercial resupply mission under contract with NASA.
You can watch it live here. The booster was previously flown on CRS-11 in 2017, as well as Thaicom 8 in 2016 and Dragon SpX-8 in 2016. SpaceX recovered it a month later after conducting engineering tests on the ground, which paved way for Sunday’s launch.
2) The Rocket
This was SpaceX’s first launch in more than a year and its first since launching NASA’s TESS exoplanet-hunting telescope in April. The company is also under contract with NASA to help resupply the International Space Station using its Crew Dragon capsule, which is slated to make its first flight sometime next year.
SpaceX’s other big launch vehicle at present is called Falcon Heavy—it consists of three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together, and it debuted earlier this year by sending Musk’s Tesla into space. Musk has said he’ll use a giant version of Falcon Heavy to eventually take humans around Mars.
3) Landing In History
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is no stranger to impressive feats of space travel, having landed on a ship at sea after launching its most recent cargo load in June. As of today, it’s accomplished that landing 11 times in a row—not a bad track record! However, it has yet to repeat its ground-based landing and rollout maneuver seen earlier in 2018.
The company said it will attempt to perform one of those landings later today with an upcoming launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California; no word yet on whether they’ll also try to recover their booster on that flight. If successful, SpaceX will have demonstrated its ability to land first-stage rockets twice during a single year; if not successful, it’ll just further add to its collection of high-flying hardware.
4) Aftermath of the last launch
Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which launched a satellite to space last week, will try to land its spent first-stage booster back on Earth in a historic attempt. If successful, it would be yet another milestone in SpaceX’s quest to develop fully and rapidly reusable rockets—which could dramatically lower launch costs.
Launching a recycled booster is the pivotal step to achieving rapid and complete reusability, Musk said at a press conference Monday. If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred.
5) Inside the spacecraft with #Dragon
The #Dragon spacecraft is packed with cargo, including science investigations and crew supplies, bound for #ISS. It will spend about a month docked to #ISS before it returns to Earth. After hatch opening and robotic vehicle operations, Dragon will unload its supplies and replace them with experiment samples from our scientific users. Excess equipment also will be removed from Dragon and returned on a later SpaceX flight.
In early March, an external payload stowage platform will be moved outside of Dragon’s trunk before its return to Earth so that astronauts can use Canadarm2 to retrieve a variety of external payloads that have been delivered by SpaceX missions in recent years.
6) Amazing Pictures
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on June 3, carrying a group of new satellites. The launch was very important to SES, a communications company that operates geostationary satellites and needed replacement equipment. According to Spaceflight Now, SES officials have said they plan to extend their agreement with SpaceX as long as it’s good value for them.
There are currently no plans for future launches of reused rockets. However, Musk told reporters after Saturday’s launch that he expects at least a dozen reused boosters will fly by year’s end. He also said he expects there will be three or four used rockets in 2018.
7) Elon Musk posts image of landing in history books
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches and lands on a ship at sea. The landing occurred about 8 minutes after launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The successful return was powered by 10 engines, and SpaceX will now bring it back to Port Canaveral to be inspected.
The mission is scheduled to launch ISS cargo on March 16 and is currently awaiting a federal sign-off that’s required before traveling to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
It will carry 4,883 pounds of cargo including 1,408 pounds of supplies, 2,496 pounds of scientific equipment in pressurized areas, and 2,485 pounds of hardware with power supply as well as system hardware that allows International Space Station (ISS) crew members to stay connected with family at home during their missions aboard ISS through augmented communications capabilities.
8) Countdown – Launch day! (3 hours to go!)
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:27 pm ET on Thursday, Jan. 18 to deliver supplies to astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
The reusable rocket has launched a record-breaking 11 times, and its Dragon cargo capsule is slated to return space station supplies to Earth as early as Sunday, Jan. 21 (full story here). Plus, see more launch photos below!