SpaceX's NextGen Rocket Scores a Perfect Landing

Bangladesh blasted its way into the space age Friday after USA company SpaceX launched Dhaka's Bangabandhu-1 satellite into orbit, in a social-media event described by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as a "glorious day" for the South Asian country. Boosters of previous Falcon 9 iterations have launched a maximum of two times each, but Block 5 first stages should be able to fly 10 times with just inspections between landing and liftoff, and perhaps 100 times or more with some refurbishment involved, Musk said during a pre-launch call with reporters yesterday.

Los Angeles-based SpaceX on Friday launched and landed its most recoverable rocket yet - one that is expected to carry USA astronauts to the International Space Station beginning later this year.

Friday's trip marked the SpaceX launch so far this year, compared to five orbital-class missions the organization had photographed in an identical stage in 2017, according to Musk.

State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak, who is in Florida to witness the launch, said the satellite would be launched 36,000km up today with the newly-built Falcon-9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Block 5 is also more powerful than its predecessors, Musk said.

The Block 5 launch is expected to be the last major upgrade to a workhorse rocket. Thales Alenia Space originally planned for Bangabandhu-1 to launch on an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket, but switched to backup-choice SpaceX at Bangladesh's request.

It is expected to have a 15-year lifespan and will help save money for the Dhaka government, which now spends $14 million annually to rent from the services of foreign satellites, government officials said.

The vehicle, aiming to bring astronauts to the International Space Station in the future, came with many design changes to improve its reusability and reliability.

The first unpiloted test flight of the Crew Dragon is scheduled in August 2018, but the demo mission could be delayed. The 3,500-kilogram Bangabandhu-1 satellite separated from the rocket's upper stage about 34 minutes later. These upgrades provide the rocket with about 8 percent and 5 percent more thrust, respectively, compared to the "Block 4".

The payload of the launch is the Bangabandhu Satellite-1, Bangladesh's first geostationary communications satellite. You can watch the entire thing in SpaceX's video below. The satellite Bangabandhu-1 is named after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the assassinated founder of Bangladesh.

  • Valerie Cook