SpaceX Launches Satellite, New Falcon 9 Version

SpaceX successfully launched an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff was at 4:14 p.m. EDT.

The launcher was carrying a communications satellite for Bangladesh, that nation's first satellite. It will provide television and data relay services for its residents.

SpaceX also claimed success in landing the spent first stage of the rocket on its drone barge dubbed "Of Course I Still Love You." Friday's touchdown at sea marked the company's 25th successful recovery of a first stage.

Sporting visible differences on the outside -- it's black interstage and landing legs in particular -- and unseen upgrades on the inside, this so-called Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 appeared to work perfectly on its first launch.

SpaceX developed this new version, expected to be the final major upgrade for the Falcon 9, to make it more powerful, more efficient, safer (with an eye toward soon carrying astronauts) and capable of multiple reflights -- at least 10 and possibly up to 100.

With this new version and its built-in improvements, SpaceX chief Elon Musk said he was hoping to one day launch the same rocket with payloads bound for Earth orbit twice within 24 hours.

The next launch from the Space Coast is now expected no earlier than the very early morning hours of Thursday, May 24. Another Falcon 9 is to launch a communications satellite for SES of Luxembourg between 12:29 and 1:27 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Next Launch NET May 24


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