When SpaceX launches a long-delayed satellite to study space weather on Sunday, the private spaceflight company also hopes to do the amazing: return a rocket to Earth and land it on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of its 14-story Falcon 9 rocket after launching the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR for short) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. Liftoff is set for Sunday, Feb. 8, at 6:10 p.m. EST (2310 GMT) and will be webcast live by NASA TV.
It will be SpaceX's second try in two months to land a rocket on an ocean drone ship as part of company founder Elon Musk's dream of making reusable rocket technology a reality. On Jan. 10, SpaceX attempted a Falcon 9 rocket landing but the booster ran out of hydraulic fluid for its four grid steering fins on the way down. The rocket stage slammed into SpaceX's drone ship and exploded. [SpaceX's Rocket Landing Plan Explained (Infographic)]
"Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard, " Musk wrote on Twitter after last month's attempt. "Close, but no cigar this time."
Now, SpaceX is ready to try it again. This time, SpaceX has loaded 50 percent more hydraulic fluid on the Falcon 9 booster, so there should be plenty of margin during the rocket's descent back to Earth.
"At least it should explode for a different reason, " Musk wrote last month.
Musk and SpaceX have been pursuing reusable rockets because the technology has the potential to dramatically lower the costs for both satellite launches and human spaceflight. The company is also building a new giant rocket, called the Falcon Heavy, and unveiled a video showing the mega-rocket's reusability last month.
Engineers conduct solar array tests on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite ahead of its Feb. 8, 2015 launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
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