Updated 11am ET: Friday’s launch went off without a hitch, with the Falcon 9 booster sending a Dragon spacecraft into a suitable orbit to reach the International Space Station. Then, the first stage safely—if a little sooty—makes a perfect landing back on Earth. This marks the company’s 20th successful landing overall, and 16th in a row.
Original post: SpaceX will attempt to send a cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station on Friday morning, with the immediate launch window opening at 10:36am ET. There were some clouds at the launch site, but overall weather conditions appeared to be good for liftoff today.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether the technical problems with the launch have been resolved. Originally aiming for Tuesday, SpaceX delayed a day to Thursday for pre-launch ground systems checks. Then the company delayed until Friday because it had found “particles” in the fuel system of the second stage of the rocket. As a result, you need to do “full inspections and cleanups.”
The rocket went vertical on the Space Launch Complex-40 early Friday, increasing confidence that the flight will take place today. The Dragon spacecraft atop the rocket will carry 4,800 pounds of crew supplies and payloads, as well as more than 250 science and research payloads. About eight minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s first stage will attempt to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1.
Friday’s mission is notable for several reasons. Already this year SpaceX has recovered three of its Falcon 9 rockets and reused a Dragon spacecraft for a station supply mission. This mission will combine the two, marking the first time that SpaceX has used a “flight display” booster for a NASA launch and combined it with a used Dragon spacecraft. This donor first flew in July, and the plane first went to port in 2015.
This launch attempt also marks a return to a launch pad that was damaged when a Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload exploded in September 2016. Since then, the company said it has repaired the damage and made major upgrades to the Space Launch Complex. 40. The website below should start about 15 minutes before the launch window opens.