Falcon 9 rocket's milestone launch on Tuesday is a payload mission for Hispasat spacecraft, a Spanish commercial communications satellite that Falcon 9 will deliver to its geostationary transfer orbit in low-Earth, nearly 36,000 kilometers over the equator. The satellite weighs six metric tons or about a half-ton heavier than any Falcon 9 payload bound for geostationary orbit.
According to NASA, the 50th launch is scheduled on March 6 between 12:33 a.m. and 2:33 a.m. at the Cape Canaveral. This will be SpaceX's first launch after the successful maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy last Feb. 6 that propelled Elon Musk's red Tesla Roadster into deep space.
Most Prolific Rocket
The Falcon 9 is a 2-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. It is also the first orbital class rocket capable of reflight.
Since its launch in June 2010, the Falcon 9 became a reliable workhorse for SpaceX's reusable and recycled rocket program. Last year, the Falcon 9 completed a total of 18 payload missions for NASA, the United States military, and other clients.
This launch record set by Falcon 9 has surpassed that of the Altas V of the United Launch Alliance and NASA's Space Shuttle.
New Launch Facility
SpaceX's launch capability for the Falcon 9 is expected to increase even more once the company's launch facility located at Boca Chica Village in Brownsville, Texas is completed. The construction of the SpaceX launch facility near the Boca Chica beach is underway and going well.
"We are currently targeting late 2018 for the site in South Texas to be operational but we're reviewing our progress and will turn the site online as soon as it's ready," said James Gleeson, Senior Communications Manager of SpaceX.
The launch site located at Boca Chica Village has been under construction since 2011. SpaceX targets to make the site operational by late 2018. Preliminary operations could start late this year or in early 2019 and SpaceX targets as many as 12 launches annually.
Musk previously hinted that its mission to Mars could be launched from Boca Chica.
"It could very well be that the first person that departs for another planet will depart from this location," said Musk, CEO and founder of SpaceX in a previous interview.
The California-based space company is currently leasing three launch facilities from the U.S. government. SpaceX's launches originate from the Cape Canaveral Airforce Base and NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and from the Vandenberg Airforce Base in California.