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Watch SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket launch three satellites into orbit

Falcon 9 with 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites at Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
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  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

Update: Due to high wind speeds in the upper atmosphere that could lead to a mission failure, this launch was rescheduled to launch this morning, Feb. 22.

SpaceX will use a previously flown rocket to launch a Spanish radar satellite and two of its own experimental internet satellites today. The launch will occur at California’s Vandenberg Air Force base, and you can watch lift-off this morning, expected at 6:17am PT (9:17am ET).

SpaceX won’t be recovering this booster after the mission, as it clears its warehouse of old-model boosters before rolling out the final evolution of the rocket later this summer.

The main payload on this flight, a satellite known as PAZ, was built by Airbus and is operated by Hisdesat, a military-focused subsidiary of Spain’s national satellite company. It has a powerful synthetic-aperture radar that will allow it to peer through the clouds to generate images with a resolution of 25 centimeters per pixel—the kind of technology needed to spot, say, North Korean missile launchers. It will also generate data for commercial use.

Following PAZ, the rocket will also launch a secondary payload—two small satellites designed to test and demonstrate SpaceX’s mooted constellation of thousands of internet-broadcasting satellites.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO and lead designer, says his company charges approximately $40 million per flight for a proven booster, making it the cheapest ride to space for most satellites. This year, the company hopes to make the final version of the Falcon 9, called “Block V,” operational. This version of the rocket will be certified to fly humans into space next year.

Today’s mission will be the fourth SpaceX launch this year, a projected rate of about 24 a year. One of those launches was the debut of the new Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this month. Last year, the company set a new record for a private firm with 18 successful launches; in 2018, the SpaceX’s president, Gwynne Shotwell, says she hopes to fly 30-40 missions, which suggests that the company will pick up the pace.

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