SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date


Update: thanks to favorable weather conditions and a perfectly executed launch, SpaceX’s Nusantara Satu mission was at least a partial success. At time of writing, the rocket’s payloads (a satellite and a lunar lander) have not yet been delivered into orbit, but it’s second stage booster was successfully recovered after landing on SpaceX’s autonomous drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You  

If you’ve been following the SpaceX launch calendar you’ll know that this week will mark the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. The good news is that the weather forecast for Cape Canaveral on Thursday, February 21, looks fine, with an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions.

The payload of the Falcon 9 will be in three parts: Firstly, an Indonesian communications satellite owned by the telecommunications company PSN, secondly, an experimental satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force which is attached to the larger satellite for more efficient deployment and which will separate and find its own orbit, and thirdly, the first Israeli mission to the moon and the first privately funded lunar mission, the Beresheet spacecraft.

This will be the first SpaceX launch in some time as it launched a mission code-named SpX-16 in December which had issues with the grid fin hydraulic pump on re-entry. The company then had planned to launch the Dragon Capsule spacecraft uncrewed to test it on a journey to the International Space Station (ISS) in January. The craft should eventually be used to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS, but the launch date had to be pushed back and the test flight is now scheduled for March.

The launch on February 21 will be of a Falcon 9 rocket, the type which SpaceX has been using since 2010. Unlike most other rockets, the Falcon 9 is partially reusable with a first stage which separates from the rest of the rocket and is capable of re-entering the atmosphere and landing to be used again. As with any space project though, things don’t always go as planned and there have been problems with landing the reusable portion of the rocket in the past. We will have to wait and see whether the SpaceX team has nailed the launch this time around.

The launch will take place on Thursday, February 21, at 8:45 p.m. ET. To watch the event live, simply tune in to the video embedded above. If you are interested in the Israeli mission to the moon specifically, you may want to check out the SpaceIL Facebook page where they will be sharing live video from inside the control room in Yehud, Israel.

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