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SpaceX lands the 13th Falcon 9 rocket of the year in flames

SpaceX lands the 13th Falcon 9 rocket of the year in flames


The 16th launch of ‘17 came in hot

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Update 10/30, 4:18 PM ET: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivered Koreasat-5A to its designated orbit, marking the the company’s 16th successful mission of the year — twice the number of successful missions in 2016. Shortly after liftoff, the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth and landed (flamboyantly) in the Atlantic Ocean on one of SpaceX’s autonomous barges. (The fires eventually went out.) It was the 13th successful landing of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, the 15th in a row, and the 19th overall.

Original story: SpaceX is set to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida today. That rocket’s mission is to send a satellite known as Koreasat-5A into space, where it will hang above Earth for 15 years while providing communications bandwidth for Korea and Southern Asia. If the launch is successful, it will be the company’s 16th of the year — more than all of 2015 and 2016 combined.

Liftoff is scheduled for 3:34PM ET from Launch Complex 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center, and the company has a 2.5-hour launch window. Should weather or some kind of technical issue get in the way, SpaceX will try to launch again tomorrow at the same time. As of writing, the weather forecast in Cape Canaveral is 90 percent favorable for a launch.

Shortly after launch, the main rocket stage of the Falcon 9 will separate and head back down to Earth. The rocket booster will attempt to land on one of SpaceX’s autonomous drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX began attempting to recover these boosters about two years ago, and despite some fiery hiccups at the outset, the company has successfully landed 18 in a row.

Can SpaceX make it 19 booster landings in a row?

Twelve of those landings happened in 2017 alone; the company let three other rockets splash down in the ocean this year during missions where, by design, there was not enough leftover fuel for the propulsive landing that settles the rocket down on the platform. This is all to say SpaceX has gotten very good at landing its rockets, some of which the company also now refurbishes and reuses. The goal of all that work is to reduce the cost of reaching space, for both SpaceX and the companies that pay it to get there.

SpaceX’s coverage of the launch will likely start about 15 minutes before launch time, so be sure to check back then. You can watch the live stream above.