After delays, SpaceX ready to push the limits of rocket recycling, again

Elon Musk's rocket company will be launching a gaggle of small satellites before bringing its orbital booster back to Earth for an unprecedented third time.

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Eric Mack
2 min read

Following a handful of delays, SpaceX finally looks poised to make spaceflight history one more time.

The company 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 with the next Falcon 9 launch from California on Monday as early as 10:32 a.m. PT.

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 carrying dozens of tiny spacecraft. The Block 5 version of SpaceX's workhorse rocket is designed to be reused up to 10 times without refurbishment. The specific booster to be used was also launched in May (the first Block 5 launch) and then again in August.


An illustration of the SSO-A payload in space.

Spaceflight Industries

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 US-based launch vehicle so far.

The mission was originally set for July, but was delayed multiple times, first to Nov. 19 and Nov. 28. Last week it was pushed to Sunday and then until Monday morning. 

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.

Watch this: SpaceX's biggest milestones

The booster's historic third landing will take place less than 10 minutes later on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions, stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

You can watch the entire mission live via SpaceX webcast. (See the live feed embedded at the top of this story.) Typically the broadcast begins about 15 minutes before scheduled launch.

First published Nov. 27 at 5:48 p.m. PT.
Update, Nov. 27 at 8:30 p.m. PT: Adds announcement launch has been delayed.
Update Nov. 29 at 7:30 a.m. PT: Adds new launch date.
Update Dec. 3 at 8 a.m. PT: Adds new launch date.

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