SpaceX's Second Attempt at Unprecedented Rocket

February 6, 2016 – 02:15 am

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off during a flight in February. (Credit: SpaceX)Update:SpaceX was forced to postpone its sixth resupply mission just three minutes before launch Monday due to an approaching anvil cloud that drifted too close to the launch site in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The next attempt is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

SpaceX is about to make its second attempt at something that’s never been done in the history of space exploration: Launch a rocket, then land said rocket.

The private spaceflight company is scheduled to launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets, affixed with a Dragon capsule, at 4:33 p.m. EDT Monday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, completing the sixth of 12 planned commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station. But the resupply mission, though important, isn’t the main event: Spaceflight fans will be watching to see if the Falcon 9 rocket can autonomously guide itself to a gentle landing back on Earth.

If the mission goes as planned — SpaceX higher-ups are putting the odds of a successful landing at 75 to 80 percent — it will be a huge step toward the company’s long-term goal of making space travel less expensive through the use of reusable rockets. You can watch live coverage of the historic attempt right here, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Reusability is the Reward

Space travel is incredibly expensive because the muscle that gets people and supplies into space is one-time use. Most rockets are unrecoverable after liftoff because their bodies are destroyed or lost at sea once they’ve fired and done their job. That inflates the cost of shipping things into space since a new rocket needs to be assembled for each mission.


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