Hawthorne-based SpaceX will have to wait at least one more day before debuting its refurbished Falcon 9 rocket, with Thursday’s planned launch scrubbed at the last minute due to a technical issue.
Known as the Falcon 9 Block 5, the rocket was about 60 seconds from launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida when its ground system went into an “auto-abort” mode due to an unknown technical issue. SpaceX officials worked to determine the cause of the abort, then opted to scrub the launch for Thursday and reschedule it for 1:14 p.m. Friday.
The Falcon 9 Block 5 includes improvements such as upgraded heat shields to protect the rocket’s base during re-entry. The Block 5 is also outfitted with improved navigation fins — which help guide the rocket’s first stage back to Earth after delivering a satellite into orbit — made from fire-resistant titanium.
The upgrades are all designed to make Falcon 9 rockets, which SpaceX has already been recovering and reusing to cut costs on future missions, more durable. Company officials have said the Block 5 model could potentially be used up to 10 times or more, while the current Falcon 9s have never been used more than twice.
Reusing the rockets is a major cost-saving step for space travel. 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. That’s more than half of the estimated overall $62 million price of the Falcon 9, according to various trade publications.
The Falcon 9 Block 5 will be carrying the Bangladesh Communications Satellite Co.’s first orbital satellite, dubbed Bangabandhu-1. The satellite is expected to expand communication capabilities across Bangladesh and in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia.