Repeated claims by SpaceX and CEO Elon Musk that a key aspect of the Falcon 9 launch scheduled for Sunday is just an experiment has failed to dampen the public’s enthusiasm over what could be the first time a rocket booster lands on a barge in the sea. Encompassing SpaceX’s third experiment of this kind, the launch is set for 10:21 a.m. EDT, and it can be streamed through SpaceX’s website or via the NASA stream at the bottom of this story.
The Falcon 9 rocket will travel from Florida’s Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station orbiting the Earth, bringing the crew members there supplies and experimental equipment that will make it possible for them to monitor meteors flying through the planet’s atmosphere. Shortly after the launch, though, the largest piece of the Falcon 9 -- known as the first stage of the rocket -- will detach and guide itself back to Earth. SpaceX engineers will then attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s all part of Musk’s plan to make space flights more affordable by reusing expensive rocket equipment. SpaceX’s previous two attempts to achieve landings at sea resulted in fiery crashes in January and April. It said company engineers have corrected the valve problem that doomed the landing in April.
A successful landing would be a major step for SpaceX as it continues to compete with Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. for NASA contracts. While both companies have been in the space industry much longer than SpaceX, founded in 2002, neither has moved as quickly as Musk’s firm in developing reusable rocket technology.
NASA has pegged the probability that the launch will take place at 90 percent, although weather will be the determining factor.
Below is first a video of SpaceX’s failed landing attempt in April and then the NASA stream of the launch slated for Sunday: