SpaceX will once again attempt to bring a rocket back to Earth after it has left the atmosphere on Friday night, according to The Verge.
SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket at 5:39 p.m. ET at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the rocket will deliver the THAICOM-8 telecommunications satellite over 20,000 miles away from Earth. The launch was supposed to occur on Thursday but was scrapped due to a “tiny glitch in the motion of an upper stage engine actuator” in the rocket, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted.
The rocket will return to Earth after delivering the satellite, and SpaceX will attempt to land it on an autonomous drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX has previously been successful at this kind of landing twice after many failed attempts, according to Ars Technica. The failed attempts caused the rockets to explode on the drone ship.
SpaceX wants to be able to regularly land rockets on drone ships because it saves the company fuel that would be used if it attempted to get the rocket back to the place it launched from. Elon Musk has compared not reusing rockets to using a commercial airplane one time for a flight and then buying a new one for the next flight. Musk believes reusable rockets could greatly decrease the cost of space travel.
“The payload for this launch will be the THAICOM 8 satellite, a commercial communications satellite built by Orbital ATK, and its mission is to provide Ku-band communications coverage for South Asia and Southeast Asia,” SpaceX wrote in a statement. “The satellite will be delivered to a supersynchronous transfer orbit that will later be reduced by the satellite to an approximately 35,800 kilometers circular geostationary orbit.”
According to Bloomberg writer Dana Hull, one of SpaceX’s most surprising achievements is its ability to draw large numbers of people to watch its live streams of rocket launches.
“The highly produced webcasts began in late December with the Orbcomm-2 mission when SpaceX launched Falcon 9 and successfully landed the rocket’s first stage — on land — for the first time,” Hull wrote on Friday. “SpaceX’s live launch webcasts from the company’s Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, are becoming must-watch events for space nerds and common folk alike. The events are an equally informative and entertaining crash course in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) topics with a heavy dose of rocket propulsion and flip maneuvers thrown in.”
SpaceX has big plans for the future, as the company announced in April it will attempt to reach Mars by 2018. It will be an unmanned mission and will attempt to demonstrate how large pieces of cargo could be delivered to the planet if humans wanted to colonize Mars some day, according to The Guardian.
It typically takes around eight months to reach Mars from Earth, and Musk said NASA will provide some technical support for the SpaceX mission.
Musk said in December that he believes it’s time for humans to look into colonizing Mars.
“Now is the first time in the history of Earth that the window is open, where it’s possible for us to extend life to another planet,” Musk said at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “That window may be open for a long time — and hopefully it is — but it also may be open for a short time… I think the wise move is to make life multiplanetary while we can.”
Though many have argued humans should consider colonizing another planet if Earth is made unlivable by issues like climate change, people like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have explained that if you can terraform another planet, you can also just re-terraform Earth to make it more livable again. SpaceX can at least show us how easily we can get large cargo to Mars, though.
[Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images]