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Watch SpaceX launch its upgraded Falcon 9 ‘Block 5’ for the very first time today

Published May 10th, 2018 4:01PM EDT
spacex falcon 9 block 5
Image: Terry Renna/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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SpaceX has had an incredibly busy year so far in 2018. The company started the year by showing off its Falcon Heavy for the first time, and it’s been sending its trusty Falcon 9 rockets into space at a rapid clip in the months that followed. Today the company will do that again, but this launch is particularly special. The launch that’s slated for 4:12pm EDT today will be the first launch of the Falcon 9 Block 5 variant.

The Block 5 is the last in the line of planned Falcon 9 upgrades, and as SpaceX notes, it’s really the ultimate version of the Falcon 9 platform. This new Falcon 9 is designed to capitalize on SpaceX’s reusable rocket technology in a whole new way by dramatically shortening the time between uses.

“The Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission will be the first to utilize Falcon 9 Block 5, the final substantial upgrade to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle,” SpaceX explains. “Falcon 9 Block 5 is designed to be capable of 10 or more flights with very limited refurbishment as SpaceX continues to strive for rapid reusability and extremely high reliability.”

SpaceX has gotten better and better and shortening the turnaround time between flights of its used (sorry, “flight proven”) rockets. Block 5 will take that concept to a new level and make successive missions not only easier, but cheaper. SpaceX’s business model depends on being able to handle missions at a rapid pace, and the Block 5 rocket will help it save time and money almost immediately.

Today’s mission will see SpaceX deliver a communications satellite for the country of Bangladesh, its very first. That’s a big milestone for the country, and it’s been made possible thanks to the plummeting costs of space launches. Bangladesh was only just recognized as a “Developing Country” by the United Nations in March, which speaks to the accessibility of space launches that companies like SpaceX have provided.

The launch window is scheduled to open at 4:12pm EDT and will remain open for just over two hours before closing at 6:22pm EDT. If for some reason the launch has to be scrubbed, the backup window opens on Friday, May 11 at 4:14pm EDT. As with all SpaceX launches, this one will be live streamed by the company. The stream window above will go live shortly before the launch window opens and SpaceX will provide commentary and additional information about the rocket, the mission, and any other scientific topics that are relevant to the launch.