SpaceX's Block 5 launches, lands safely, delivers satellite into orbit

SpaceX delivered the first Bangladeshi communications satellite, Bangabandhu Satellite-1, into space on it's first launch of the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket.
By Brooks Hays  |  Updated May 11, 2018 at 4:35 PM
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May 11 (UPI) -- On the second launch attempt, SpaceX's Block 5 rocket, the final iteration of the Falcon 9, successfully blasted off on Friday.

The updated rocket model, upgraded to enhance reusability, carried a Bangabandhu Satellite-1 into geostationary orbit. It will be the first Bangladeshi communications satellite put into space.

The rocket launched right on time at 4:14 p.m. ET from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On Thursday, a last-minute abort alert forced SpaceX to abandon it's launch plans. The brief launch window didn't give engineers enough time to identify and correct the technical glitch.

However, statements from SpaceX suggested the problem was with ground support systems, not the rocket itself.

After launch, the mission achieved a quick succession of feats: a first stage engine cutoff followed by a stage separation, and then a second stage burn and fairing release. Moments later, the second stage cut its burn.

"Second stage engine cutoff confirmed," SpaceX wrote on Twitter. "Second stage and satellite now in coast phase."

Shortly before the second stage separation, the first stage executed a controlled landing back on SpaceX's drone ship in the Atlantic -- the company's 25th recovered first stage.

If all goes as planned, the new iteration of the Falcon 9 rocket will be recovered dozens of times during the course of its lifespan.

In a call with reporters on Thursday, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk outlined high hopes for Block 5, which he said will be the final version of the Falcon 9.

By the end of the year, Musk aims to fly two missions with the same rocket in the span of 24 hours. He likened the rocket's reusability to an airplane -- capable of landing, refueling and flying 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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