SpaceX prepares to launch the very first high-orbit communications satellite for Bangladesh Thursday afternoon.
"With this historic first satellite, Bangladeshi residents will have access to a wide range of broadcasting and communications services," said Thales Alenia Space, who designed and built the satellite.
Bangabandhu-1, as The satellite will provide state-of-the-art telephone, radio, television and Internet services to the nation of more than 160 million people, as well as countries such as Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan.
But most eyes will focus on the shiny new 23-story rocket that carries the satellite. It's the first Falcon 9 Block 5, SpaceX's strongest, reusable, and probably last version of the orbital launcher of the workhorse.
"The Bangabandhu Satellite 1 mission will be the first to use Falcon 9 Block 5, the latest major upgrade to SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle," SpaceX said in a press release.
SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, has launched more than 50 missions on a Falcon 9 rocket since its debut in June 2010.
Engineers have steadily improved the rocket over time. They made it bigger, shaved unnecessary weight and gave the engines more power. SpaceX has also added features to launch, land, and reuse the rocket's 16-floor booster – the largest and most expensive part, as it accounts for approximately 70% of the total launch cost.
This is a stark contrast to any other orbital rocket in use today that is used once and then discarded in the ocean.
SpaceX's record for reusing a Falcon 9 Booster is twice. With Falcon 9 Block 5, Musk hopes to expand that to 10 times with just light inspections and maybe 100 or more reuses when worn parts are reconditioned.
"I think the F9 boosters can be used almost indefinitely, as long as scheduled maintenance and careful inspections take place," Musk said on Reddit in October 2016. "Falcon 9 Block 5 – the latest version of the series – is the one which has the most performance and is designed for easy reuse. "
Musk calls Falcon 9 Block 5 the" final version ". SpaceX's 6,000 employees are shifting almost all of their development work to focus on the company's Big Falcon Rocket.
The two-stage BFR system is said to be larger than the Statue of Liberty, put a 16-story spaceship into orbit, be fully reusable, and carry 100 people and 150 tonnes of cargo to Mars. It will also (and ultimately) replace all other SpaceX missiles, since it can be started and reused relatively inexpensively, at least in theory.
SpaceX has recently received approval to begin construction of the first BFR spaceships in the Port of Los Angeles, located about a dozen miles south of the company's headquarters. Musk hopes to launch the first BFR spaceships in SpaceX Texas-based facilities by early 2019.
Watch the first launch of Falcon 9 Block 5 live on YouTube
Bangabandhu-1 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 4:12 pm EDT on Thursday.
Current weather forecasts indicate that the mission has an 80% chance to withdraw, and SpaceX has a window of about 2 hours to launch the mission. If there is a delay, the company may try again on Friday at 16:14. SUMMER TIME.
SpaceX's YouTube live broadcast – embedded below – should begin about 20 minutes before launch.
The new Falcon 9 Block 5 Booster is due to return to Earth a few minutes after launch and land on a drone named "Of course, I love you" in the Atlantic Ocean.
Approximately 33 minutes after launch, the upper stage of the rocket was intended to bring the Bangabandhu 1 satellite into orbit about 22,230 miles above the earth.
We will update this post with more information after launch or if there is any kind of delay.