This afternoon, SpaceX is slated to launch the first high-orbit communications satellite ever for the country of Bangladesh, and the company is using its most advanced Falcon 9 yet for the job. Called Bangabandhu-1, the satellite is riding into space on top of SpaceX’s Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket. It’s the last and most powerful version of the Falcon 9 that SpaceX plans to make, as the company switches its focus to developing a new giant rocket and spaceship combo, the BFR.
The Block 5 sports numerous upgrades designed to make the rocket easier to reuse. Thanks to the changes, the Block 5 shouldn’t require as much time or effort to be made flight-ready again once it lands. And this particular rocket will be showing off its landing skills after today’s flight. The first stage of the Falcon 9 will return to Earth following launch and attempt a touchdown on one of SpaceX’s autonomous drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean.
But the primary goal of the mission is to get Bangabandhu-1 into orbit. The satellite will eventually travel to a path 22,000 miles above Earth, where it will provide telecommunications coverage for Bangladesh and surrounding areas. It’s the first time the county will send a communications satellite to this high of an orbit.
The rocket is slated to take off from SpaceX’s launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission can take off during a launch window that runs roughly two hours, from 4:12PM to 6:22PM ET. So far, weather looks like it will cooperate for launch; there’s an 80 percent chance of good conditions. However, SpaceX has a backup launch date on Friday around the same time.
SpaceX’s coverage of the launch will begin around 20 minutes before takeoff, so check back then to see the most powerful Falcon 9 ever go to space.