SpaceX is gearing up for a big launch on Wednesday. Elon Musk’s space-faring firm plans to launch 64 small satellites as part of the SSO-A mission from California. The company plans to use a Falcon 9 rocket for the mission, which could take the claim as the first time SpaceX has used the same rocket three times.
The milestone is a pivotal moment in SpaceX’s history, as it works to fine-tune its rocket recovery capabilities and save some of the estimated $62 million in costs associated with building a new Falcon 9. Wednesday’s launch, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, is expected to use the B1046 booster. This “Block 5” booster was the first of its kind to launch on May 11, when it sent up Bangladesh’s first geostationary communications satellite as part of the Bangabandhu-1 mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida. After a three-month break, B1046 flew again from the same base on August 7 with the Merah Putih geostationary commercial communications satellite for PT Telekom Indonesia.
The rocket’s third mission, delayed from November 19, will send up Spaceflight Industries’ collection of satellites that are stacked together to save on launches. The collection includes crafts from as small as a phone up to the size of a fridge, with contributions from 34 grounds in 17 countries. The complete package weighs around 4,000 kg in total, and it traveled 1,432 miles from Seattle down to California in preparation for the launch.
It’s all part of SpaceX’s long-term plan to make rocket launches faster and cheaper. Musk stated in March 2017 that his aim is to land, prepare, and resend a rocket within 24 hours. SpaceX has started work on a highly-reusable rocket design called the Starship (formerly the BFR), a ship that could land on Mars, refuel and make its way back to Earth. As well as saving on costs, the project would enable far-flung planet hopping.
The SSO-A mission is expected to launch at 1:31 p.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex 4E at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Related video: SpaceX Simulates How Its Starship Will Land