Watch SpaceX push the limits of rocket recycling, again

An illustration of the SSO-A payload in space.


Spaceflight Industries

SpaceX pioneered landing and reusing commercial rockets capable of sending spacecraft to orbit, but the company has never used the same rocket stage more than twice. That’s set to change Wednesday.

Elon Musk’s vision of cheaper, more rapid launches to orbit gets lifted to a higher level when one of his Block 5 Falcon 9 rockets blasts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the morning. The Block 5 version of SpaceX’s workhorse rocket is designed to be reused up to 10 times or more without refurbishment. The specific booster that’ll be used this week was also launched in May (the first Block 5 launch) and then again in August.

The payload bay atop that Falcon 9 is going to be crowded — it’s loaded with 64 small satellites from 34 different organizations representing 17 nations. Spaceflight Industries purchased all the space on the Falcon 9 for a rideshare mission dubbed SSO-A SmallSat Express, which the company says will be the largest single rideshare mission from a U.S.-based launch vehicle so far.


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The University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Nevada Museum of Art, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Capella Space Corporation are among the organizations that’ll have satellites aboard the rocket Wednesday.

The launch window is between 10:32 and 11:01 a.m. PT.  The booster’s historic third landing will take place less than 10 minutes later on the droneship Just Read the Instructions, stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

You can watch the entire mission live via SpaceX webcast. We’ll embed the live feed here when it becomes available. Typically the broadcast begins about 15 minutes before scheduled launch. 

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