We’re not even halfway through 2016 yet, and already SpaceX is preparing for its fifth launch of the year, a sign of how the company is ramping up its launch operations.
This latest launch, from Cape Canaveral in Florida, will see an upgraded Falcon 9 take the Thaicom-8 telecommunications satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). This satellite is for Asian satellite operator Thaicom, and will see the satellite deliver broadcast and data services to Thailand, Southeast Asia, India, and Africa for more than 15 years.
Of course, as with most SpaceX launches, the attention will not be on the satellite, but on the first stage of the rocket. SpaceX will attempt to land this stage on a floating barge for the third time, which would be the fourth landing in total (the first was on the ground in December 2015).
The launch is scheduled for 5.40 p.m. EDT (10.40 p.m. BST) today, with weather conditions said to be 90 percent favorable. There’s a 2-hour window for launch if it needs to be delayed, and if it has to be scrubbed (canceled), the next opportunity to launch is tomorrow.
You can watch the launch live in SpaceX’s official webcast, which we’ll embed below when it goes live 20 minutes before launch.
As mentioned, this is already the fifth launch this year for SpaceX. Its previous record for launches in a single year was set in 2015, with six launches in total. 2016 looks like it is going to smash that record, as the company ramps up operations.
The ultimate goal for Elon Musk’s company is to start launching every week; previous years have only seen a launch every few months. With the company recently increasing the number of rockets it's building, it is getting closer to this final goal.
And with the reusability aspect, too, SpaceX is definitely shaking up the rocket launch business. It already has plans to reuse some of the first stage boosters that have been returned, which will dramatically lower the cost of launching.
The company is also planning to launch its much bigger Falcon Heavy rocket later this year, although a firm date has not yet been set. Recently, SpaceX said it wanted to use this new rocket to launch a mission to Mars in 2018.
All in all, it’s been a pretty good year so far for SpaceX. Tune in for this latest launch today to see if they can add to their string of successes.