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Watch SpaceX attempt to catch a payload fairing with a boat named ‘Mr. Steven’

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Less than two weeks have passed since SpaceX’s last rocket launch, but today the company will attempt to break free from the shackles of gravity and reach orbit once again. Barring any delays, SpaceX is set to launch yet another Falcon 9 rocket today at 12:47 PM PST from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. This time, the rocket will carry payloads for two different customers: A set of five communications satellites from Iridium, and two gravity-measuring satellites built in a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences.

Today’s launch will differ from SpaceX’s previous launches in three key ways. First and foremost, the company isn’t using its new Block 5 Falcon 9 variant. Instead, the payload will be delivered into orbit on an older Block 4 version, which was previously used (and successfully recovered) four months ago during the Zuma mission.

Second, SpaceX will not make any attempt to recover the rocket’s first stage this time around. This deliberate move is part of the company’s ongoing effort to phase out its Block 4 rockets and transition to using the newer, more advanced Block 5 fleet for all future launches. Block 5 rockets (one of which SpaceX used on its last mission) boast a range of upgrades that not only make them more efficient, but also make the Falcon 9’s first stages easier to reuse after recovery.

Don’t worry though — despite the fact that today’s mission won’t include a spectacular rocket landing, the company will attempt to recover a different part of the rocket: half of the payload fairing, otherwise known as the nose cone shell that protects all the expensive stuff SpaceX is trying to put into Space This is a very tricky endeavor. An array of thrusters and parachutes will help guide the partial fairing down towards Mr.

Steven, a landing ship that will attempt to cradle the nose cone and prevent it from tumbling into the ocean. If this recovery proves successful, it will mark a first for the SpaceX team. Previous attempts have just barely failed.

Weather is favorable today, so a launch looks likely.

As usual, the SpaceX webcast will kick off 15 minutes before scheduled takeoff.

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