FIFTH ELEMENT

Watch SpaceX launch Bangladesh’s first satellite on a redesigned rocket

Ready for action.
Ready for action.
Image: SpaceX
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Elon Musk’s SpaceX will fly Bangladesh’s first satellite into orbit today in a mission that amounts to a dress rehearsal for taking astronauts into orbit.

The flight marks the debut of the “Block 5” version of the Falcon 9 rocket, intended by its designers to be the final iteration, suited for flying ten times or more and carrying humans to the International Space Station.

“There’s lots of new things in this rocket that could potentially go wrong,” Musk warned reporters in a call ahead of the flight. “A passing grade for a rocket—the reason that it is so hard to make an orbital rocket work—your passing grade is 100%.”

SpaceX expects to launch the rocket during a launch window beginning at 4:14 pm ET on May 11. Eight minutes after lift-off, the first stage of the rocket will attempt to land on an autonomous drone ship floating more than three hundred miles off the Atlantic coast. You can watch the whole thing on the company’s livestream:

This will be the second attempt at this launch; just one minute before a lift-off time on May 10, SpaceX’s rocket aborted the countdown, after it detected a potential problem. The company said the rocket and payload were in “good health” after the abort.

The satellite on top of the rocket is Bangladesh’s first. It will be operated by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission. The spacecraft was built by the Franco-Italian company Thales Alenia Space, and will provide TV broadcasts and telecom services throughout southeast Asia. The satellite is called Bangabandhu-1, meaning “Friend of Bengal,” a reference to Mujibur Rahman, who led the country to independence in 1971.

If the mission succeeds, SpaceX’s engineers will carefully examine the entire rocket to confirm that their design succeeded in surviving the rigors of space travel, no worse for the wear. If all goes according to plan, SpaceX hopes to fly the same rocket twice in a single day in 2019, which would be another first for the company.

“We need to take it apart to confirm it doesn’t need to be taken apart,” Musk joked.