Less than 4 weeks after launching a Dragon cargo ship for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX is poised for their next nearly simultaneous Falcon 9 rocket launch and first stage landing attempt for what promises to be a spectacular skyshow shortly after midnight on Friday, May 6.
The commercial mission involves lofting the JCSAT-14 Japanese communications satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) for SKY Perfect JSAT – a leading satellite operator in the Asia – Pacific region.
Following a day’s delay due to inclement weather, SpaceX is now targeting an overnight launch of JCSAT-14 atop the upgraded version of the Falcon 9 for Friday, May 6 at 1:21:00 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl.
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The Falcon 9 launch is the 4th this year for SpaceX.
You can watch the launch live via a special live webcast from SpaceX.
The SpaceX webcast will be available starting at about 20 minutes before liftoff, at approximately 1:00 a.m. EDT – at SpaceX.com/webcast
The 229 foot tall Falcon 9 rocket has a 2 hour launch window that extends until Friday, May 6 at 3:21 a.m. EDT.
The weather currently looks very good. Air Force meteorologists are predicting a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time Friday morning.
In cases of any delays for technical or weather issues, a backup launch opportunity exits 24 later on Saturday at the same time.
The rocket has been rolled out to the launch pad on the transporter and raised to its vertical position.
The path to launch was cleared following this past weekend’s successful hold down static fire test of the Falcon 9 first stage Merlin 1-D engines. SpaceX routinely performs the hotfire test to ensure the ready is ready.
Via a fleet of 15 satellites, Tokyo, Japan based SKY Perfect JSAT provides high quality satellite communications to its customers.
The JCSAT-14 communications satellite was designed and manufactured by Space Systems/Loral for SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation.
It will succeed and replace the JCSAT-2A satellite currently providing coverage to Asia, Russia, Oceania and the Pacific Islands.
JCSAT-14 satellite will separate from the second stage and will be deployed about 32 minutes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral. The staging events are usually broadcast live by SpaceX via stunning imagery from onboard video cameras.
A secondary objective is to try and recover the first stage booster via a propulsive landing on an ocean-going platform.
During the last SpaceX launch on April 8, the first stage did successfully soft land on the ship at sea for the first time. But the rocket was moving somewhat slower and aiming for low Earth orbit.
This booster is again equipped with 4 landing legs and 4 grid fins.
Following stage separation, SpaceX will try to soft land the first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship positioned a few hundred miles off shore in the Atlantic Ocean.
But SpaceX officials say “a successful landing is unlikely” because with “this mission’s GTO destination, the first stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating.”
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.