SpaceX will launch a powerful Telstar communications satellite into orbit early Sunday morning (July 22), testing out the spaceflight company's new Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket for the second time.
The launch is set to occur Sunday between 1:50 a.m. and 5:50 a.m. EDT (0550 to 0950 GMT) from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and you can watch it live online here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX. You can also follow the action directly at SpaceX's site.
SpaceX successfully completed a test-fire of the two-stage Falcon 9 Wednesday (July 18), firing the first stage's nine Merlin engines at full power to test them before lowering the rocket to attach the satellite payload, according to SpaceflightNow.
The Telstar 19V satellite, from the Canadian company Telesat, will end up in a high, geostationary orbit — orbiting at the same rate as Earth turns, so it hovers over one point — and provide broadband access across the Americas and Atlantic Ocean, according to Telesat. After the Falcon 9 lofts the satellite into space, the rocket's first stage will return to Earth for a landing on the SpaceX drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.
This launch is SpaceX's second to use the company's new Block 5 Falcon 9, which first launched May 11 carrying Bangladesh's first communications satellite into orbit and whose first stage was recovered for analysis. This launch will use an all-new Block 5, although the rockets' first stages are designed to last for 10 or more flights with no refurbishment in between — in fact, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said they could ideally last for 100 launches with some refurbishment.
The Block 5 also has increased thrust over the previous version and is designed to meet NASA's commercial crew requirements. While additional minor changes might be made, Musk has said the Block 5 will be the final version of the Falcon 9, freeing up SpaceX to work on newer rocket designs, such as the potentially Mars-bound BFR.
As of Friday (July 20), the weather forecast from Patrick Air Force Base's 45th Space Wing showed a 60-percent chance of acceptable launch weather; the potential problem spots are thick clouds. If SpaceX is unable to make the launch window, the backup will be the next night.
This launch will be the first in a busy streak for SpaceX, if launch dates hold. The company is set to launch 10 satellites for the Iridium Next mobile communications fleet on July 25 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Then, on Aug. 2, the company will launch a communications satellite for Telkom Indonesia from Cape Canaveral in Florida.