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SpaceX Launches Rocket Primed for Future Crewed Missions

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket makes its debut launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on May 11.The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket makes its debut launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on May 11.

An updated version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, tailored for eventual crewed missions for NASA, made its debut launch on Friday from Florida's Cape Canaveral carrying a communications satellite for Bangladesh into orbit.

The newly minted Block-5 edition of the Falcon 9—equipped with about 100 upgrades for greater power, safety and reusability than its Block-4 predecessor—lifted off at 20:14 GMT from the Kennedy Space Center, Reuters reported.

Minutes later, the rocket's main-stage booster flew itself back to Earth to achieve a safe return landing on an unmanned platform vessel floating in the Pacific Ocean.

The recoverable Block-5 booster is designed to be reused at least ten times with minimal refurbishment between flights, allowing more frequent launches at lower cost—a key to the SpaceX business model.

Enhanced rocket reusability also is a core tenet of SpaceX owner and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's broader objectives of making space travel commonplace and ultimately sending humans to Mars.

SpaceX has safely return-landed 24 of its boosters and re-flown 11 of them. Friday's flight marked the ninth SpaceX launch so far this year, compared to five orbital-class missions the company had logged at the same point in 2017.

It came a day after the original launch countdown was halted one minute before blastoff time due to a technical problem detected by the rocket's onboard computers. Friday's second attempt by SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies, appeared to have gone off without a hitch.

The rocket's payload, the Bangladeshi government's first communications satellite, Bangabandhu-1, was placed into Earth orbit 33 minutes after launch, according to SpaceX.

 

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