by Chris Tobias
SpaceX makes history at breakneck speed. In just a few hours, Elon Musk and company will launch their 50th Falcon 9 rocket!
Although it’s become the norm for SpaceX to refly its Falcon 9 boosters, it is actually a brand new Falcon 9 that will carry the Hispasat 30W-6 satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). The milestone launch is scheduled for the early morning of Tuesday, March 6 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-hour launch window opens at 12:33 am EST, or 5:33 UTC. (If necessary, a two-hour back-up launch window is available at the same times on Wednesday, March 7.) The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, which is designed to provide television, broadband, corporate networks and other telecommunications, will be deployed approximately 33 minutes after launch.
It appears that one of the trickier aspects of SpaceX’s launch-recover-relaunch operations might be the effect that launch delays can have on the ability to recover boosters. This particular launch was scheduled for late February, but was delayed because additional testing was needed on the fairing’s pressurization system. Back in February, the plan was to recover this brand new Falcon 9 booster aboard SpaceX’s drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, and the company had even debuted its brand new “spider boat” Mr. Steven, which has been specially designed to catch fairings. But the SpaceX recovery fleet was called back to port over the weekend, and the official press kit for this mission confirmed that SpaceX will not attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage after launch due to rough seas in the recovery area off Florida’s Atlantic Coast. It’s probably a good bet that SpaceX would have preferred to recover this shiny new booster to fly it another day, but Badger’s assessment of crime and politics in the pilot episode of Firefly applies to the business of launching rockets as well: “The situation is always… fluid.”
Speaking of fluid, if you’re on the East Coast, you might want to put on a pot of coffee if you plan on staying up to see the 50th Falcon 9 break atmo, but for those who want to watch the launch live online, SpaceX’s webcast of the mission will go live approximately fifteen minutes prior to liftoff at spacex.com.
Peace, love and rockets…