Although SpaceX has never fully divulged manufacturing costs, experts have estimated that the first stage of the rocket can cost up to $40 million alone. It is set to carry a satellite into space for Bangladesh. It is the country's first communications satellite. STP-2 has a number of objectives, including demonstrating the new rocket's capabilities and launching several satellites.
Nothing unusual in that, but today's launch is special given that SpaceX is using an uprated "Block 5" first stage for its Falcon 9 rocket, its most advanced to date, for the launch.
This will make it easier to certify the Falcon 9 rocket for human flight.
The Block 5 was also created to meet NASA's stringent crew-carrying requirements.
"I'm stressed. Any good wishes would be appreciated", Musk said. Block 5 will be the final version of the company's Falcon 9 rocket before it shifts focus on Big Falcon Rocket (BFR, a.k.a Big Fucking Rocket), which will ferry astronauts and "colonizers" to Mars.
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The Falcon 9 rocket Block 5 will be the first true test of SpaceX's reusable spacecraft. Boeing also holds a NASA crew contract and will continue to fly agency astronauts to and from the International Space Station using a capsule named the CST-100 Starliner and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets.
If the launch goes as planned, it will be a promising sign for SpaceX's wider plan of conducting manned missions with rockets that can be reused up to 100 times in a single lifespan. The launch will be attempted at 4:14 p.m. EDT tomorrow.
SpaceX's YouTube live broadcast, embedded below, should begin about 20 minutes before launch.
According to a round-up of changes posted on Reddit, changes to the Block 5 Falcon 9 include improved heat shielding around the engines to protect them from the stresses of reentry and switched to a thermal protection barrier, rather than just paint, to help with reusability.
The rocket will deliver the satellite to geostationary transfer orbit a half hour after launch.