The first “Block 5” Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the Bangabandhu 1 communications satellite for the government of Bangladesh today at 4:12 p.m. EDT (2012 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. And the two-stage rocket’s first stage will attempt to land on a robotic “drone ship” off the Florida coast shortly after liftoff. You can watch the action live here at Space.com and on our homepage, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via SpaceX’s website.
The launch window opens at 4:12 p.m. EDT and runs until 6:22 p.m. EDT (2222 GMT). There’s just a 20 percent chance that bad weather will spoil the attempt, officials with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron said on Monday (May 7).
The Block 5 features a number of upgrades that should increase the rocket’s reliability and reusability, SpaceX officials have said. The first stage of the Block 4 Falcon 9 is limited to two launches, but the Block 5 first stage should be able to lift off 10 times — with just inspections between landing and launch — and up to 100 times with some refurbishment, according to company representatives. (SpaceX has stated a desire to reuse the two-stage Falcon 9’s upper stage at some point, but hasn’t made a concerted attempt to do so yet.)
The Block 5 was also designed to meet NASA’s stringent crew-carrying requirements. SpaceX holds a multibillion-dollar NASA contract to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), and the company will do so using its Dragon capsule and the Block 5 Falcon 9.
The first crew-carrying flights using this system could come as early as this year, SpaceX representatives have said.
Boeing also holds a NASA crew contract. The aerospace giant will fly agency astronauts to and from the ISS using a capsule called the CST-100 Starliner and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets.
Bangabandhu 1 will be Bangladesh’s first communications satellite. The spacecraft will provide a variety of broadcast and communications services to residents of the densely populated South Asian nation, according to French company Thales Alenia Space, which built Bangabandhu 1.