SpaceX's Upgraded Falcon 9 Rocket Soars With Satellite

The first launch of a Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX.

The rocket is created to require far less maintenance and refurbishment between flights, and is certified to carry humans to space later this year when SpaceX launches its Dragon crew capsule to the International Space Station.

SpaceX on Thursday aborted the launch of its planned first commercial flight of an updated Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on a mission to carry a satellite into orbit for the government of Bangladesh.

The recoverable Block-5 booster is created to be reused at least 10 times with minimal refurbishment between flights, allowing more frequent launches at lower cost - a key to the SpaceX business model.

The Block 5 sports numerous upgrades created to make the rocket easier to reuse. It's the first time the country will send a communications satellite to this high of an orbit.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk says the improved first-stage boosters on the rocket can be reused more than 10 times - even 100 - and require little or no prep work. Block 5 has more powerful engines, more resilient hardware to survive the harsh conditions of re-entering the atmosphere and landing, less weight (notably through its unpainted components, such as the black interstage) and a more easily produced structure. The spaceship portion of the BFR system could begin short-hop testing, similar to the Falcon 9's early Grasshopper test flights, as early as next year. If all goes according to plan, Block 5 rockets will start sending test crews to the International Space Station for NASA later this year.

Minutes later, the rocket's main-stage booster flew itself back to Earth to achieve a safe return landing on an unmanned platform vessel floating in the Pacific Ocean.

The company's previous Falcon 9 rockets, while successfully recovered two dozen times, have never flown more than twice.

The updated rocket is created to be reusable, which would drastically reduce costs of trips to space.

He said the marginal cost of a orbital rocket launch could eventually fall to a slim fraction of that figure, but he cautioned that SpaceX still had to cover fixed costs.

SpaceX's facilities in Redmond, Wash., are taking the lead role in the Starlink effort.

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