SpaceX's upgraded Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida this evening, where it'll be attempting to place a communications satellite into orbit, 22,000 miles above the equator, reports USA Today. The launch is scheduled for 5:37PM local time and is being streamed live online. This is reportedly SpaceX's first launch of a commercial communications satellite, and if successful, would be a major step forward for the private space transportation company. The satellite onboard is an SES-8, which satellite operator SES has contracted SpaceX to launch.
"The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a game-changer."
"Let me put this very clearly and maybe not too dramatically: The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a game-changer," Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer for SES, reportedly said during a conference call. "It's going to really shake the industry to its roots."
This will be the second flight for SpaceX's upgraded Falcon 9. The rocket was initially tested back in April, but USA Today reports that an optional engine restart failed, which SpaceX says it has since fixed. The original Falcon 9 reportedly sent several spacecraft up to the International Space Station, but at only 230 miles up, this new model will be sending its load much farther.
Though the Falcon 9's launch was scheduled for 5:37PM, its countdown timer was delayed several times, eating into the additional hour of time built into its available launch window. The countdown has since restarted with a new projected launch time of 6:30PM. "The rocket is safe, the spacecraft is safe ... and they're ready to go forward with the countdown," SpaceX said on its livestream.
Update: SpaceX missed its launch window for the day, calling a hold as the countdown timer reached just under 4 minutes. "Currently the Falcon 9 is safe," SpaceX said in its livestream. "The spacecraft is in good shape." SpaceX says that its team will prepare for another launch attempt as soon as this Thursday at 5:38PM ET.