SpaceX is returning to space with the launch of communications satellites for Orbcomm Inc. on Dec. 19. A newly upgraded Falcon 9 rocket will carry 11 small commercial communications satellites to space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The upcoming satellite launch could also see the first ground-based attempt for SpaceX to land its first-stage booster.
SpaceX plans to static fire the Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 16 with a launch scheduled three days after the test, SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced on Twitter.
"We expect to be offering our customers in the first quarter of 2016 an enhanced, more efficient communications network, significantly increasing network capacity, coverage and performance, including an Automatic Identification System (AIS) payload on every spacecraft," Orbcomm CEO Marc Eisenberg said in a statement.
The satellite launch could take place between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST on Dec. 19. It would be the first launch for SpaceX since June 28 after its Dragon spacecraft was lost after the Falcon 9 rocket exploded a few minutes after launch. The mission was the seventh commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station as part of SpaceX's contract with NASA. An investigation revealed a faulty support beam led to the explosion, Reuters reported.
With a new launch comes a potential attempt to land the first-stage booster. SpaceX wants to create a reusable rocket that would greatly reduce launch costs. The company previously attempted landings on a platform in the ocean, but came up just short of successfully landing the rocket booster. For the upcoming launch, SpaceX may attempt to return the booster with a ground-based approach, Florida Today reported.
The company could use a landing site on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for the attempt. Blue Origins, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' commercial space company, landed its rocket there, but Musk quickly noted the differences between the attempts. After the Orbcomm launch, SpaceX has a planned cargo resupply mission to the space station in January.