For over 15 years, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been working toward creating rockets that can be flown to space over and over. So far, no Falcon 9 booster has flown more than twice, but that may be about to change with a rocket set to lift off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral early Tuesday.
For the first time, SpaceX will launch a previously flown ‘block 5’ Falcon 9 rocket. The block 5 is the final version of the company’s workhorse rocket, designed to be used up to 10 times without refurbishment and fly as many as 100 times over its full lifespan.
The first launch of a block 5 Falcon 9 carried the Bangladeshi Bangabandhu satellite to orbit in May. That same booster will be used Tuesday to send Telkom Indonesia’s Merah Putih satellite to its new domain 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) above the equator. Ironically, it has undergone a rigorous teardown and rebuild following its first flight to check that it has performed as expected and can actually be reflown without being torn apart in the future.
If all goes well, the rocket will send the Indonesian communications satellite on its way and then land on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ stationed in the Atlantic. It will then be hauled back to shore for a quick inspection and readied for a potentially historic third mission in the future. SpaceX is also preparing for another upcoming milestone when it will load a record 70 satellites atop a single rocket.
Reusing rockets is a key part of the company vision to make it cheaper and easier to get to space. The ability to launch frequently is going to be required to make humans a truly ‘multiplanetary species,’ as Musk likes to say, starting with a second home on Mars. He hopes to launch, recover and relaunch a rocket with as little as 24 hours turnaround time by 2019.
Tuesday’s launch is scheduled for 1:18 a.m. ET (10:18 p.m. Monday PT). You can watch live via the SpaceX live webcast, which will be embedded below once it becomes available.