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SpaceXs Falcon 9 Block 5 set for the first Cargo Dragon spacecraft launch

After a small 24-hour delay at NASA's request, SpaceX is ready to support Falcon 9 Block 5's first launch of…

After a small 24-hour delay at NASA’s request, SpaceX is ready to support Falcon 9 Block 5’s first launch of Cargo Dragon and its 16th operational mission to revive the International Space Station (ISS).

Wear just under 2600 kg (5700 lbs) of science experiments, ISS hardware and replenishable goods, CRS-16 will be the fifth time. SpaceX has reused a Cargo Dragon capsule that has already been in circulation, with this special capsule launched in February and reappeared in March 2017.

Aside from being the first NASA- certified launch of Sp aceX’s latest Block 5 upgrade to the Falcon rocket family, CRS-16 will be the first attempt to land a Falcon 9 Block 5 booster, hopefully seeing the B1050 safely recovered on one of the company’s two Landing Zones (LZ-1 or LZ-2) on the Florida coast. In particular, this type of landing (RTLS) indicates recovery – that Falcon 9 can fly a rather mild launch and recurring course, due to a combination of a light payload and low energy target. As such, the B1050 could be a leading candidate to break SpaceX launch time in 72 days – the new Block 5 Booster will be the subject of one of the upgraded rocket’s mildest landings than.

2018 has been a landmark for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 reusability programs, as evidenced by the fact that a full 60% of the company’s 19 (20 if CRS-16 is a success) launches have flown on or with airplane boosters. The impressive relationship is likely to increase further as we enter 2019, to the extent that – by 2020 – the launch of a new Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy Booster can be quite rare.

] On the Dragon side of things, SpaceX ended the last launch of a brand new Cargo Dragon in August 2017, almost 16 months ago. Since then, all Cargo Dragon launches have presented refurbished capsules, although the spacecraft luggage compartment – with some fuel, solar collectors and storage space – is used after each mission and must therefore be replaced. From now on, SpaceX has only one or two airy Cargo Dragons left that have completed fewer than two trips to orbit, which means that at least two of the company’s remaining CRS-1 missions (CRS-17 to 20) will be has to be their given capsule’s third runway launch. Fortunately, Cargo Dragon has long been designed for three launches per capsule life.

The first of the third orbital reflexes will almost certainly kick out sometime next year. Meanwhile, SpaceX’s CRS-16 launch will be delivered as usual and can be seen here, starting today at 10:00 PST (1:00 AM, 6:00 AM UTC).

For quick updates, ground-based perspectives and unique glimpse of SpaceX’s rocket recovery fleet, check out our brand new LaunchPad and LandingZone newsletter!

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