Update March 6th, 1:36AM ET: SpaceX successfully deployed the Hispasat 30W-6 to a geostationary transfer orbit.
Original story: Less than two weeks after launching out of California, SpaceX is ready to fly its next Falcon 9 rocket, this time from Florida. It’ll be the fiftieth Falcon 9 launch, according to Elon Musk. Tonight, the company is tasked with sending up a hefty communications satellite for operator Hispasat, called Hispasat 30W-6. However, it looks like SpaceX will not attempt one of its signature rocket landings at sea after takeoff.
Many thought this rocket would be expendable. The satellite’s weight — more than 13,400 pounds (6,092 kilograms) — makes it one of the heaviest payloads for SpaceX. Plus it’s going to a high orbit about 22,000 miles (around 35,700 kilometers) above Earth known as geostationary orbit. Getting a heavy satellite that high uses up a lot of fuel, leaving little leftover for the Falcon 9 to perform a landing.
It seems that SpaceX considered trying to save the vehicle at one point. The launch was originally scheduled for Sunday, February 26th, and one of the company’s drone ships had left the port at Cape Canaveral, Florida, a few days beforehand — seemingly to get in position in the Atlantic Ocean to catch the falling rocket. However, SpaceX was forced to scrap that launch attempt to do extra testing on the rocket’s nose cone, or payload fairing. For this attempt, the drone ship is back at the port, and SpaceX said there won’t be a recovery because of bad weather conditions in the Atlantic.
The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite will provide television and broadband coverage to Europe, North Africa, and America. The satellite’s operator says the probe should last about 15 years in orbit.
The Falcon 9 is slated to take off in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, sometime during a two-hour window that begins at 12:33AM ET. So far, there is a 90 percent chance that weather will be good for the flight. SpaceX’s coverage typically begins 15 minutes prior to takeoff, so check back then to squeeze a launch into your late Monday night plans.
Update March 5th, 1:30PM ET: This post was updated to include new information from SpaceX about recovery plans.