Update 6:11 p.m. ET: At just over two minutes to liftoff, SpaceX scrubbed today’s launch. Elon Musk tweeted that the decision to halt the mission was due to a problem with the Air Force’s tracking radar. The team may try for another launch window tomorrow evening.
Shortly after 6:10 p.m. ET on Sunday, Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company SpaceX will attempt for a second time to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a robotic floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. The company’s first attempt, on January 10, was nearly a success: After separating from a cargo capsule bound for the International Space Station, Falcon 9 guided itself to the barge using GPS. Unfortunately, the fins meant to control the rocket’s descent ran out of hydraulic fluid and could not slow it down enough. This fantastic video from SpaceX shows the fiery touchdown:
SpaceX says it has packed 50% more hydraulic fluid for today’s mission, which will send the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite into orbit. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will use the satellite to monitor streams of plasma from the sun, called solar winds, that can disrupt electronics in space and on Earth.
If SpaceX can successfully land its rockets after space launches, the company will be able to save millions of dollars by reusing its vehicles. “I think if we can recover the stage intact and relaunch it, the potential is there for a truly revolutionary impact in space transport costs,” Musk said last year. The January 10 mission was the first time anyone had attempted to land a rocket on a floating platform after a space launch.
Watch a live stream of the launch, scheduled for 6:10 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida, below. We will update this post throughout the evening with news of the barge landing.