Space-X lobs Spanish military satellite into orbit

The rocket's first stage will not be recovered.

A large part of SpaceX's ethos is to reuse rockets and components of spacecraft in order to conserve resources.

The static test fire of Falcon 9 was completed on February 11, after which the space firm aimed at February 17 for the launch.

The launch of Falcon Heavy opens a new frontier in space exploration, particularly interplanetary missions and manned missions to the moon in the next few years and possibly to Mars in the next couple of decades.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is launching early this morning, and although it doesn't have quite the worldwide attention that the Falcon Heavy got, it's still going to be quite a momentous occasion.

This launch would be SpaceX's eighth from the West Coast, and its 55th overall.

The live video feed typically begins about 15 minutes before launch, which in this case should be shortly after 9 a.m. ET.

Will Falcon 9 be carrying anything else?

The rocket's first stage - the ninth previously flown SpaceX booster to make a second flight - powered the vehicle out of the thick lower atmosphere and then fell away two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff.

However, the firm did attempt to capture the rocket's payload fairing, or nosecone, as it fell back from space at eight times the speed of sound.

Each satellite launched into space will be able to cover slightly more than a radius of 1,000 kilometers.

Residents who caught SpaceX's unexpected light show on December 22 were looking forward to the launch, which promised similar conditions that could broadcast the ghostly rocket-exhaust vapor far and wide.

For example, the total cost of a Falcon 9 launch is estimated to be about $61 million.

"Today's Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband", Musk tweeted on Wednesday (before a launch delay). The fairings cost $6m and Musk is eager to recoup that money by catch and retrieve the hardware and thus help his bottom line. SpaceX has been working hard to create some sort of fairing-catcher to ease the landings.

Beyond the satellite deployments, there's one more big objective: an attempt to recover the fairing, or nose cone, that protects the Falcon 9's payloads during ascent.

In related news, the twin internet satellites known as Microsat 2a and 2b have been re-christened Tintin A and B. The satellites, the first two components of a planned, massive space-based internet communications network, were successfully deployed this morning and are communicating with Earth stations.

  • Carolyn Briggs