SpaceX is at it again. After the first successful Falcon 9 rocket landing on a floating platform docked off the coast of Florida early this month, it is aiming for a repeat performance.
The Elon Musk-owned spaceflight company is seeking to replicate the success of its April 8 landing, the first time it was able to bring one of its boosters down for a gentle landing and unlike any of the previous attempts ending up in a crash. The picture-perfect landing fueled further optimism in human spaceflight, including reusable booster technology for reduced costs.
The next satellite launch is slated for May 3, revealed by a SpaceX representative to ABC News. While it will still attempt to land the Falcon 9 rocket at sea after sending the payload into orbit, the specific booster for this new launch won’t be the same one used in the April 8 landing.
Musk said the previous rocket is now going through tests and, once certified to be reused, could fly once again as soon as June. In a previous press conference, he explained that the rocket will be fired 10 times in a row during testing and will be used again on another orbital mission once proven to be in good working condition.
The Falcon 9 in the upcoming mission is tasked to send JCSAT-14, a Japanese communications satellite, some 22,000 miles above Earth. This satellite, based on the SSL-1300 satellite platform, will replace the JCSAT-2A and expand its capability to meet the growing telecommunication services demand in the Asia Pacific.
The satellite, too, is expected to work for at least 15 years.
It will be the same drill: SpaceX will attempt to have the rocket’s first stage make a controlled landing on the floating platform named "Of Course I Still Love You," an autonomous spaceport drone ship waiting for the stage’s comeback out in the Atlantic Ocean.
The company, however, is still mum or uncertain about the kind of launch it will carry out in the succeeding months – or if it will involve paying passengers.
“We think it’ll be a paying customer, but we have discussions on it,” said Musk, who emphasized that Falcon 9 rockets could be used for 10 to 20 additional space missions. Their lifespan, he added, could be extended to 100 launches thanks to minor refurbishment.
Photo: SpaceX | Flickr