SpaceX scrubs launch of Block 5 rocket, reschedules for Friday

By Brooks Hays and Danielle Haynes  |  Updated May 10, 2018 at 6:15 PM
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May 9 (UPI) -- SpaceX on Thursday scrubbed the launch of the latest version of its Falcon 9 rocket, the Block 5, and rescheduled the event for Friday.

The new rocket model, upgraded to enhance reusability, was expected to carry the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 into geostationary orbit. It will be the first Bangladeshi communications satellite put into space.

There was an abort on the planned 5:47 p.m. EDT launch from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX rescheduled the launch for about the same time window on Friday.

Last week, the Block 5 rocket completed a successful static test fire, but it wasn't clear when the launch would happen.

The inaugural satellite is named after Bangladesh's founding father, Sheikh Majibur Rahman, popularly known as Bangabandhu, which translates as "friend of Bengal."

Unlike previous Falcon 9 rockets, the Block 5 is capable of being reused up to 10 times with only inspections in between each launch. Regular refurbishing can allow the rocket to be reused dozens of times, making space travel more economical.

"Block 5 basically summarizes all that we learned on reusability," Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, said during a news conference in April. "It's a reliability upgrade that combines reliability and reusability."

To improve the rocket's reusability, engineers strengthened heat shields in numerous places and boosted engine thrust.

Engineers at SpaceX's test facilities have been pushing spent rocket cores to the limits to identify the stress thresholds for the Falcon 9's various components. The tests have helped engineers identify where tweaks, material reinforcement and new technologies are necessary.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said in conference call with reporters Thursday that while there will be minor adjustments to the Block 5 over time, the rocket is expected to be used in ways similar to an airplane -- land, refuel and fly again on a quick turnaround.

"We expect it to be a mainstay of SpaceX's business," Musk said, "and to complete something of the order of 300 flights before retirement."

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