SpaceX’s updated version of Falcon 9 rocket “Block 5” lifted off in Florida on Friday, boosting Bangladesh’s first communications satellite into orbit.
The “Block 5” booster, the final substantial upgrade to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle, was launched at 4.14 p.m. from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, starting its maiden flight, Xinhua reported.
The vehicle, aiming to bring astronauts to the International Space Station in the future, came with many design changes to improve its reusability and reliability. Those changes may make engineers easier to refurbish its first stages for more flights.
It is designed to be capable of 10 or more flights with very limited refurbishment as SpaceX continues to strive for rapid reusability and extremely high reliability, according to SpaceX’s news release.
The new rocket has improved its helium tanks submerged in liquid oxygen propellant tanks in the second stage. The helium tanks were ruptured in a pre-launch test on Sept. 1, 2016, causing an explosion.
The rocket’s first stage was successfully recovered, landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” offshore droneship, about 8 minutes after the launch.
Bangabandhu Satellite-1 is Bangladesh’s first geostationary communications satellite, expected to have a primary service area encompassing Bangladesh and the surrounding region including territorial waters in the Bay of Bengal.