Update 5:55 p.m. ET: “No go” for launch today due to high winds. The team may try again Wednesday evening.
After engineers scrubbed Sunday night’s launch just two minutes before lift-off, Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company SpaceX will try again this evening to send a satellite into orbit and then land a Falcon 9 rocket on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean. (Scroll down for the live stream.)
SpaceX has a one-second window at 6:05 p.m. ET Tuesday to launch the Falcon 9 rocket, which will carry the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite into orbit. The satellite, operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will monitor streams of plasma from the sun that can disrupt electronics in space and on Earth.
If all goes to plan, the rocket should land itself vertically on the 100-foot-by-300-foot barge about 10 minutes after liftoff. This experimental maneuver is separate from the scientific satellite mission, which will not be affected should the landing attempt fail.
Today’s mission follows SpaceX’s first attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a barge on January 10. After separating from a cargo capsule bound for the International Space Station, the Falcon 9 guided itself to the robotic floating platform using GPS. Just before the landing, however, the fins meant to slow and stabilize the descent ran out of hydraulic fluid, and the rocket crashed hard into the deck. Here’s a video of that nearly successful touchdown:
SpaceX says it has packed 50% more hydraulic fluid for today’s mission, which will be only the second time anyone has tried to land a rocket on a floating platform after a space launch. SpaceX has described the maneuver as “like trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a wind storm.”
As I wrote yesterday, SpaceX hypothetically will be able to save millions of dollars by reusing its vehicles if it can successfully land its rockets after space launches, rather than letting them fall into the ocean and become trash. “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. SpaceX currently works with NASA to ferry astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station. The company is also building a private spaceport in Texas to support commercial missions.
Watch a live stream of the launch, scheduled for 6:05 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida, below. We will update this post with news of the barge landing. If engineers scrub tonight’s launch, the team may try for another window at 6:03 p.m. ET on Wednesday.