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SpaceX launches upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket with Bangladesh satellite

New, highly reusable rocket configuration to launch Bangabandhu-1 satellite


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX launched its upgraded Block Falcon 9 rocket Friday from Kennedy Space Center designed to refly dozens of times.

The Falcon 9 launched from KSC launch pad 39A at 4:14 p.m. carrying a satellite for the Bangladesh Communications Satellite Company to geostationary orbit.

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The nearly 8,000-pound satellite, known as Bangabandhu-1, is designed to have a lifespan of 18 years and will    deliver communications services to Asia. It's the first geostationary satellite for Bangladesh. The spacecraft is named after the country's founding father.

"Please keep us in your prayers so that we can safely launch our first satellite of Bangladesh," Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Bangladesh state minister tweeted this week.

About eight minutes after launch, the Falcon 9's first-stage booster landed on its new, upgraded, titanium grid fins on a drone ship called Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean. 

This launch marks a milestone for SpaceX, as the Block 5 Falcon 9 is the same design that will launch NASA's commercial crew astronauts to the International Space Station as soon as next year.

The new version of SpaceX’s workhorse rocket has been in development for more than 10 years to replace the previous Block 4 boosters.

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Block 4 boosters could fly twice before major repairs were needed, according to SpaceX officials. The company wants to fly the Block 5 boosters up to 10 times before bringing them in for major refurbishment, helping SpaceX bring down the time between flights.

The improved Falcon 9 first stages will be ready to launch again only 48 hours after recovery. In a call with reporters ahead of the launch, CEO Elon Musk said he also expects to bring down the time between flights to 24 hours by early next year.

SpaceX will have 30-50 Block 5 Falcon 9s in rotation. Musk said Block 5 Falcon 9s will fly up to 100 times before being retired.

The highly reusable, new Falcon 9 drives SpaceX's goals of bringing down the cost of spaceflight. The rocket booster makes up about 60 percent of the rocket, Musk said. A "flight-proven" booster runs around $50 million, saving customers $10 million, according to the SpaceX founder.

SpaceX is also working toward recovering the two fairings that make up the Falcon 9's nose cone, where payloads are enclosed. Those are about $6 million.

The company did not attempt to recapture the fairings after Friday's launch.


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