‘Block 5’ Launch Update: SpaceX’s Upgraded Falcon 9 Rocket Finally Soars To The Skies

SpaceX successfully launched the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 on the maiden voyage of its new and improved Falcon 9 rocket.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket transporting the Tess satellite launches from Cape Canaveral on April 18.
John Raoux / AP Images

SpaceX successfully launched the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 on the maiden voyage of its new and improved Falcon 9 rocket.

The highly-anticipated launch of the “Block 5” Falcon 9 rocket finally took place today, marking the debut of SpaceX’s Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission.

Elon Musk’s company managed to launch its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket without any incidents, acing both the liftoff and the landing of the booster’s first stage, Space.com reports.

The new “Block 5” Falcon 9 rocket took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 4:14 p.m. EDT (20:14 GMT) and performed a perfect satellite launch that erased the memory of yesterday afternoon’s boggled attempt.

The launch of the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket was initially scheduled for May 10, but an automatic abort triggered in the last minute forced SpaceX to scrub its first try of sending the “Block 5” into space. The much-awaited launch had to be pushed back almost 24 hours, until the next launching opportunity became available.

The new Falcon 9 rocket took off on its maiden voyage to carry into orbit Bangladesh’s first communications satellite, Bangabandhu-1. According to a SpaceX news release, the rocket’s second stage deployed the 3.9-ton (3.5 metric tons) satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit about 33 minutes after the Falcon 9 lifted off from KSC’s historic Launch Pad 39A.

Space.com notes that the two-stage rocket separated about 2.5 minutes into the flight. SpaceX tweeted a photo of the Falcon 9 as the rocket’s first and second stage parted ways.

The booster’s first stage executed a perfect touchdown nine minutes after the launch and landed, just as planned, on SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX marked the moment with another photo shared by the company’s Twitter account.

The private space company enthusiastically shared on social media photos of all the important moments of the “Block 5” Falcon 9 launch, including an image of the Bangabandhu-1 satellite in the geostationary transfer orbit.

Named after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, the communication satellite is destined to provide the people of Bangladesh with a wide array of services, “including phone services, backhaul, radio, direct-to-home TV, and internet,” Thales Alenia Space, the French company that built the satellite, said in a statement.

“Once Bangabandhu Satellite-1 is operational, Bangladesh will be autonomous in terms of telecommunications and broadcasting services, being able to offer communications services to many foreign countries, such as Nepal, Myanmar or Bhutan under its coverage area,” stated Thales Alenia Space representatives.

The “Block 5” is the newest version of the Falcon 9 rocket and also the last one that SpaceX will ever produce. The upgraded version boasts a series of important advantages over the previous “Block 4” model and is designed to maximize the rocket’s reusability.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, the “Block 5” is capable of performing 10 or more times without being refurbished between launch and landing. By comparison, the other reused boosters that SpaceX has flown until now had a maximum of two launches each.

In addition, the upgraded Falcon 9 is more powerful than the previous versions, thanks to the nine Merlin engines in the rocket’s first stage and the single “vacuum Merlin” in the second stage. These upgrades provide the rocket with about 8 percent and 5 percent more thrust, respectively, compared to the “Block 4.”

“It’s really better in every way than the Block 4,” Musk told journalists yesterday before the initially scheduled May 10 launch.

“This rocket is really designed to be — the intent is to be the most reliable rocket ever built.”