SpaceX is slated to launch a broadcasting satellite into orbit this week, and the Falcon 9 rocket is getting all fired up--literally. On Monday, the company briefly lit the first stage engines in a static test fire, and so far everything seems to be up to snuff.
If the weather holds out, the mission's launch window will begin on Wednesday at 6:46pm Eastern. Meteorologists are saying there's a 60 percent chance that the conditions will be okay for liftoff.
The rocket's payload, a nearly 12,000-pound satellite made by the satellite operator SES, will bolster communications and television broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific region.
If all goes well, Wednesday's mission will be the second launch of SpaceX's new-and-improved Falcon 9 rocket design, upgraded to carry more fuel and have more thrust.
It'll need that extra fuel, too. After the launch, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a barge in the ocean. However, landing on a swaying sea platform has proven to be difficult, and the odds of succeeding are even lower this time around. After a SpaceX rocket exploded last year, the satellite's launch was delayed for months. To make up for lost time, the Falcon 9 will carry the massive satellite into a higher orbit that will reduce the time it takes for the SES-9 satellite to get into the right position to begin operating.
Launching the satellite higher means the rocket will be coming down faster, and with less fuel to slow its descent. However, if SpaceX does manage to pull off the landing despite all those additional challenges, it'll make the success even sweeter.
[Via Spaceflight Now]