SpaceX Launches Upgraded Falcon 9
SpaceX successfully completed the first flight of its upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket, carrying the Bangladesh telecommunications satellite Bangabandhu-1 into orbit last Friday. According to SpaceX, the Block 5 is “the final substantial upgrade” to the Falcon 9 rocket, which the company hopes to use to transport people into space in the not-too-distant future. SpaceX has also said it is actively working with NASA to achieve that goal.
Improvements to the two-stage Block 5 rocket include an increase in thrust, greater reusability, avionics and landing leg upgrades, and a redesign of the pressure vessel implicated in the 2016 Falcon 9 pre-launch explosion. SpaceX says the rocket is designed to be used for 10 or more launches with little or no refurbishment in between, and should, according to CEO Elon Musk, have a lifespan of up to 100 launches. For the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission, the rocket returned as planned and landed on a droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Friday’s flight took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Bangabandhu-1, which is Bangladesh’s first geostationary communications satellite, was deployed approximately 33 minutes after launch. The satellite was manufactured by Thales Alenia Space and is expected to stay in orbit for at least 15 years.