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SpaceX, Elon Musk rocket toward 50th Falcon 9 launch

Elon Musk's space company is shooting for its 50th Falcon 9 launch in under eight years. Several of its rockets made multiple trips -- and history.

SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida late Monday, Pacific time, for the 50th time since the first Falcon 9 mission less than eight years ago.


Falcon 9 satellite launches are big business for SpaceX.


It's perhaps fitting the milestone mission will be a rather routine delivery of Hispasat 30W-6, a Spanish communications satellite, to a geostationary orbit high above the equator. Such commercial satellite missions, along with the occasional flight to resupply the International Space Station, have been the bread and butter of SpaceX's business for the past several years.

Along the way, the Falcon 9 has also pioneered the era of the reusable rocket. The company has successfully landed and recovered a Falcon 9 a total of 23 times (a pair of those landings included boosters that made up the Falcon Heavy launch last month). Six of the 23 landings involved rockets making their second flights.

The two-hour launch window is currently set for 9:33 p.m. PT Monday, with a back window on Tuesday evening. SpaceX said in a statement it "will not attempt to land Falcon 9's first stage after launch due to unfavorable weather conditions in the recovery area off of Florida's Atlantic Coast."

Technically, Monday night's launch would be the 51st time a SpaceX rocket gets off the ground, but a June 28, 2015 Falcon 9 mission to resupply the ISS failed when a fuel tank ruptured and the rocket broke up in flight just a few minutes after launch.

In the years to come, SpaceX hopes to continue speeding up the cadence of its launches while also launching larger rockets like the Falcon Heavy that successfully sent founder Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster toward Mars and the massive "B.F.R." Musk hopes will eventually send humans to Mars and perhaps provide crazy-quick international flights.

If any of these Muskian/Martian science fiction flights of fancy ever come to pass, we'll look back and note how the road to Mars was paved with dozens of rather boring missions like Hispasat. (And perhaps someone will add that they were financed by a massive constellation of broadband satellites Musk plans to launch in the next decade.)

You can watch the live webcast of the Hispasat launch via the above video embed starting around 9:15 p.m. PT.

First published March 5 at 9:21 a.m. PT. 
Update, 1:21 p.m. PT: Adds embedded video feed and a quote from SpaceX about recovery plans for the Falcon 9.

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