SpaceX Bangabandhu-1 launch held up while Dragon splashes down on time

First night nerves for Elon’s revamped rocket

SpaceX has opted to spend a few more days checking out its new Falcon 9 following a successful test fire of the rocket on 5 May, but its latest cargo ship enjoyed an uneventful return to Earth.

The famously taciturn rocketry outfit was expected to launch the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite for the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on 7 May but, following the test, engineers wanted to take few more days to review the data.

No other reason was given for the delay, and on 7 May SpaceX confirmed a new date of 10 May for the first flight of the upgraded Falcon 9.

The 45th Space Wing issued a forecast on 7 May to the effect that there was a 20 per cent chance of weather stopping Musk's new shiny leaving the ground during its 1612 to 1822 EDT (2012 to 2222 UTC) window.

The lift-off, from Kennedy’s pad 39A was the first since SpaceX failed to destroy the historic facility during the spectacular Falcon Heavy launch and landing.

The freshened-up Falcon 9 Block 5 design features tweaks targeting reusability and reliability, according to SpaceX’s VP of Mission Assurance, Hans Koenigsmann, who spoke during the TESS pre-launch briefing.

The first passenger onboard the beefed-up booster will be Bangladesh’s first satellite, Bangabandhu-1. The 3,600 kg spacecraft will provide Ku-band coverage for Bangladesh and the surrounding region, and is expected to last at least 15 years in geostationary orbit.

Following the launch, SpaceX hopes to land the first stage booster back on one of its automated drone ships.

Splashdown of Dragon

While East Coast engineers were in the process of firing up the Falcon 9 in Florida, the company’s 14th cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) came to a watery end in the Pacific.

A successful splashdown of the reusable capsule just after 3pm local time marked the end of nearly a month in space and the return of 4,000 pounds of cargo from the ISS.

As well science payloads, the Dragon also brought NASA’s faulty Robonaut back to Earth after astronauts were unable to fix the busted bot. Not so much Rise of the Machines, more Return To Base of the Machines.

The next SpaceX resupply mission to the ISS is the CRS 15 mission, which is currently scheduled for the end of June. ®

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