Quick! Tune in!
SpaceX is about to attempt something pretty historic: launching a rocket in such a way that much of it can be reused in later launches.
If the launch is successful, the payload of the rocket will spend a few days cruising to the International Space Station, then drop off a bunch of supplies. The “first stage”(the largest — and often the most expensive — engine component) of the rocket, meanwhile, will break away in a controlled fall back towards earth to (hopefully) be used again, with a pair of landing legs being deployed on the way down.
Even if the landing legs deploy properly, the landing is aimed for the water… which the legs can’t actually stand up on. They’ll simulate a landing to test that their landing thrusters seem to work — but in the end, it’ll just fall right into the water. This is more about testing to make sure the process works than trying to actually get this thing to make a perfect landing, but it’d still be damn neat to watch — alas, we probably won’t get to see that bit in the live stream.
I’ve embedded both NASA and SpaceX’s stream below, because each offers some pretty amazing angles and insight. If you watch both simultaneously, you probably want to mute one or the other.
Update – 12:26: The rocket launched on schedule at 12:25 p.m. pacific, and is currently en route to the ISS.
Update – 12:40: Success! Looks like everything went smoothly with the first segment of the launch. The rocket launched smoothly (despite bad weather), and will spend the next few days cruising to the ISS. As such, the stream is now over, so we’ve removed it. We’ll know in a few days if the test landing process went as smoothly.
Update – 5:00 pm: Elon Musk has tweeted to announce that the first stage has landed safely in the Atlantic.
Neither NASA nor SpaceX has put up a pre-cut video of today’s launch just yet – I’ll add it here as soon as they do. In its place, here’s a video of the Falcon 9 doing a short-distance test flight — it takes off from its launch pad, hovers for a second, and then lands itself safely a few feet away from its original location.