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SpaceX launches Block 5 Falcon 9, a radically reusable rocket

Elon Musk & Co. send up a rocket that's designed to head back to space 99 more times.

The first Block 5 Falcon 9 blasts off.

SpaceX

Elon Musk and SpaceX successfully launched the final "Block 5" version of the company's Falcon 9 rocket on Friday, after a last-minute computer abort signal pushed things back a day. Block 5 is the upgraded model Musk says could be reflown about a hundred times.

The updated rocket also has a distinctive new look, with a black interstage section that sets it apart from earlier versions. It blasted off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 4:14 p.m. ET on Friday, carrying the Bangabandhu satellite-1, the first satellite for Bangladesh.

The launch went off like many SpaceX missions before it. The first stage of the Falcon 9 blasted off, sent its payload on the way to orbit and then dove back down through the atmosphere to land safely on the Atlantic-based droneship "Of Course I Still Love You." 

But how successful this rocket is will ultimately be determined by how many more times we see it in action again. 

In a call with reporters Friday, Musk said he'd like to see a single Block 5 rocket fly three or four times by the end of 2018. The SpaceX founder and CEO also said he hopes to demonstrate that the same rocket can be launched, landed and then launched again within 24 hours. 

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Such turnaround time would be unprecedented, like much of what SpaceX has accomplished in the past few years. 

Before the launch, Musk said he was "stressed" and that orbital rockets are hard enough, but building one that can fly 100 times is "crazy hard."

Whether a single Block 5 rocket ever does fly 100 times remains to be seen. Musk says the line will likely be retired after about 300 flights and that SpaceX plans to build 30 to 50 Block 5 rockets. With that many laying around, it seems unlikely any will need to fly 100 times before the company moves on to its next big thing, the "BFR" rocket Musk hopes will take humans around the world, to the moon and Mars.

Updated at 1:24 p.m. PT with the successful landing of the first stage rocket.

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