Update: Today's launch has been scrubbed due to weather. The next launch window is tomorrow at 4:10PM ET.
This afternoon, SpaceX will send a Falcon 9 rocket to space that will deliver cargo to the International Space Station, including an espresso machine specially designed to work in space. Questionable weather has the launch at a 60 percent chance of happening, which is scheduled for 4:33PM ET. But today's launch is important for another reason: It will also be the third test of the company's modified reusable rocket.
This is the third launch of the reusable Falcon 9
SpaceX's plan is to use four fins to stabilize the rocket, which measures 70 feet wide with the landing legs extended. The rocket will then lower itself onto the 300-by-100-foot autonomous barge, which is already in the ocean east of Cape Canaveral.
Odds of rocket landing successfully today are still less than 50%. The 80% figure by end of year is only bcs many launches ahead.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 13, 2015
The first two attempts were troublesome. The initial try in January resulted in a catastrophic explosion when the rocket impacted the barge after a mistakenly speedy descent. When the company tried again in February, bad weather scrubbed the barge landing, and the rocket instead merely hovered over the ocean for a few moments before it sank.
Excessive costs are by far the biggest hurdle when it comes to space travel. That's why reusable rockets are such a big deal. By replacing the single-use rockets, space agencies as well as companies like SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance could save millions of dollars.
We all know spaceflight is hard, so it's no surprise that SpaceX has hit a few bumps in this quest. But the company didn't miss success by much. While the first rocket erupted in a fireball worthy of a Michael Bay film, it missed the target on the barge by a matter of feet. The second apparently was even closer, according to the data collected by SpaceX, even if the rough seas kept the barge docked.
The espresso machine — cleverly named ISSpresso — was made by Italian coffee company Lavazza in conjunction with an engineering firm and the Italian Space Agency, and NASA has certified its safety. The ability to sip espresso from a pouch won't give the astronauts any nutritional benefits, but it could help the psychological side of things. Any comfort that can be afforded to the astronauts while they work in solitude — whether it's coffee, television, or even Thanksgiving dinner — is important for morale, especially considering two of the crew just began a year-long stay on the station.
International Space Station video: A timelapse of Earth