SpaceX will attempt another rocket landing during the launch of a commercial communications satellite early Sunday morning (Aug. 14), and you can watch all the dramatic action live.
SpaceX's two-stage Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch the JCSAT-16 satellite at 1:26 a.m. EDT (0526 GMT) Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. About 9 minutes later, the rocket's first stage will attempt a soft landing on a robotic "drone ship" in the Atlantic Ocean, a few hundred miles off the Florida coast. You can watch it all live here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX.
The touchdown try — a secondary objective Sunday, behind the main goal of lofting JCSAT-16 — is part of SpaceX's effort to develop fully reusable rockets, a cost-slashing innovation that company founder and CEO Elon Musk views as essential to speeding humanity's spread out into the solar system.
SpaceX has already landed five Falcon 9 first stages, with the latest success coming last month during the launch of the company's robotic Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station on a resupply mission for NASA.
Some of these touchdowns have occurred on land, while others employ the drone ship; it depends on the destination of the Falcon 9's payload. (Rockets that blast satellites toward distant orbits cannot carry enough fuel to make it all the way back to the launch pad. JCSAT-16 is headed toward a final orbit that's about 22,300 miles, or 35,800 kilometers, above Earth.)
The first relaunch of a landed Falcon 9 first stage could come as soon as this fall, Musk has said.
JCSAT-16 was built by California-based company Space Systems Loral and will become an orbit spare for Japan's Sky Perfect JSAT Corp.
SpaceX launched the JCSAT-14 spacecraft in May — a mission that also featured a successful Falcon 9 first-stage landing.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.