An updated version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, tailored for eventual crewed missions for NASA, has made its debut launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral carrying a communications satellite for Bangladesh into orbit.
The newly minted Block-5 edition of the Falcon 9, equipped with about 100 upgrades for greater power, safety and reusability than its Block-4 predecessor, lifted off on Friday afternoon from the Kennedy Space Center.
Minutes later, the rocket’s main-stage booster flew itself back to Earth to land safely on an unmanned platform vessel floating in the Pacific Ocean.
The recoverable Block-5 booster is designed to be reused at least 10 times with minimal refurbishment between flights, allowing more frequent launches at lower cost.
Enhanced rocket reusability is a core tenet of SpaceX owner and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s broader objectives of making space travel commonplace and ultimately sending humans to Mars.
SpaceX has safely return-landed 24 of its boosters and reflown 11 of them.
The launch came a day after the original countdown was halted one minute before blast-off due to a technical problem detected by the rocket’s onboard computers.