The latest and latest version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched today (May 11) with a perfect satellite launch – and the first stage of the booster has also been launched.
The first "Block 5" Falcon 9 vehicle launched the Bangabandhu Satellite-1, the first communications satellite for the Government of Bangladesh, today at 16:14. EDT (2014 GMT), Taking Off Historic Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, NASA (KSC), Florida
The first and second stages of the rocket took about 2.5 minutes to fly. As the second stage continued to drive Bangabandhu-1 into a high geostationary transfer orbit, the first stage maneuvered its way back to Earth, landing a pinpoint landing on a robotic SpaceX "drone ship" in the Atlantic nearly 400 miles (630 miles) southeast of the KSC , [See the Evolution of SpaceX̵
The landing, which took place less than 9 minutes after takeoff, sparked fierce applause from SpaceX staff at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Today's launch was originally scheduled for yesterday (May 10), but a "Ground System Auto Abort" sank this attempt with just 58 seconds remaining on the countdown clock.
Another Reusability Lead
Although this was the first landing for a first stage in Block 5, the 25th was overall for a Falcon 9 during an orbital launch. To date, SpaceX has flown back eleven previously landed boosters.
Such activity is part of the company's effort to fully and rapidly develop reusable rockets and spacecraft. This work is a key priority of SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, who said that such a technology could reduce the cost of space travel and make ambitious targets such as the colonization of Mars economically viable.
The upgrades of Block 5 take this step a step further. Boosters from previous Falcon 9 iterations have each started a maximum of twice, but Block 5's first stages should be able to fly 10 times with just inspections between landing and takeoff, and maybe 100 times or more with some conversions involved during a Musk Pre-launch call with reporters yesterday.
Block 5 is also stronger than its predecessors, Musk said. The nine Merlin engines in the first stage of the rocket and the single "vacuum Merlin" in the second stage have about 8 percent and 5 percent more thrust, respectively, than their counterparts in the Falcon 9 block 4. And this boost was without increase reaches Massachusetts, Musk added.
In addition, the new booster has a number of reliability upgrades that meet the rigorous NASA standards, as SpaceX will use the company's Block 5 – and Dragon Capsule – to transport astronauts to the International Space Station ( ISS).
SpaceX holds a multi-billion dollar contract with NASA to offer such taxi services. The first manned flights of the Block 5 Dragon system could arrive this year, SpaceX officials said. (NASA also signed a commercial crew deal with Boeing, who will use his CST-100 Starliner capsule and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket to get the job done.)
"It's really better in every way Block 4 "Musk said, citing a number of upgrades of avionics, to the thermal protection system on the first level of block 5." This rocket is really designed to be the most reliable rocket ever built. "
Block 5 is the latest version of the Falcon 9 that SpaceX will produce. SpaceX plans to phase out the vehicle – along with Dragon and the newly released Falcon Heavy rocket – in favor of the huge rocket-space combo called BFR, which is currently under development. The BFR will carry people and cargo to Mars, but it will also bring satellites to orbit, dispose of space junk, drag passengers around the earth on superfast point-to-point trips, and do whatever SpaceX needs, Musk
SpaceX said will most likely end up with a stable of 30 to 50 Falcon 9 Block 5, which will fly together on the order of 300 missions before they are completely replaced by the BFR, Musk said during yesterday's call.
A Bangladesh premiere
Bangladesh's first communications satellite will be the Bangladesh 1, built by the French company Thales Alenia Space at 3.9 tonnes (3.5 tonnes).
"With this historic first satellite, Bangladeshi residents will have access to a wide range of broadcasting and communications services, including telephone services, backhaul, radio, direct-to-home television, and the Internet," wrote Thales Alenia Space representative of the satellite.
"Bangladesh is autonomous with respect to telecommunications and broadcasting following the launch of Bangabandhu Satellite 1." The delegates added:
The satellite is named after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is considered the founding father of Bangladesh. Rahman was a key figure in the country's quest for independence, which was achieved in 1971 and served as the first president of Bangladesh. ("Bangabandhu" is not part of Rahman's name, but rather a title that means "Friend of Bengal.")
Rahman was murdered in 1975 at the age of 55.
Follow Mike Wall on Twitter  @michaeldwall and Google+ . Follow us @SpaceTotcom Facebook or Google+ . Originally published on Space.com .