Update for 4:30 pm ET: SpaceX has successfully launched the Es'Hail-2 satellite for Qatar and returned its Falcon 9 booster to Earth. Read our full story here to see videos of the launch and landing. To see photos of the launch, click here.
SpaceX plans to launch a communications satellite and land a rocket today (Nov. 15), and you can catch all the action live.
A two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with the Es'hail-2 communications satellite is scheduled to lift off from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:46 p.m. EST (2046 GMT). You can watch live here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX; coverage starts 15 minutes before liftoff.
If everything goes according to plan, the Falcon 9 will deliver Es'hail-2 to a geostationary transfer orbit about 32 minutes after launch. By that point, the rocket's first stage should be safe and sound on SpaceX's "Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast. The first stage is scheduled to touch down on the floating platform about 8 minutes after liftoff.
A successful landing would be the second for this particular first stage, which also helped launch the Telstar 19 Vantage satellite this past July.
Such reuse is key to SpaceX's effort to slash the cost of spaceflight, a breakthrough that could help humanity achieve ambitious exploration feats such as the settlement of Mars, company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.
SpaceX has landed Falcon 9 first stages 30 times to date and re-flown such boosters 16 times.
Es'hail-2 was built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and will be operated by Qatar's national satellite-communications company. The satellite will provide secure communications for industry and government customers throughout the Middle East and North Africa, SpaceX representatives said.
Today's launch will be the first of three liftoffs on back-to-back-to-back days, if current schedules hold. The Russian space agency Roscosmos plans to launch a robotic Progress cargo spacecraft toward the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow afternoon (Nov. 16), and the American company Northrop Grumman aims to launch an ISS resupply mission of its own early Saturday morning (Nov. 17).
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.