Update: The launch is now postponed until tomorrow evening due to recurring radar tracking issues. We’ll be sure to keep you up to date with when you can catch it then.
SpaceX is aiming to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory, also known by the acronym DSCOVR, today during a launch window that kicks off at 6:10 PM ET (and you can watch live above). The NASA-contracted mission is designed to launch a satellite that can monitor solar storms and provide full Earth imagery, but the real story for SpaceX watchers will be what happens after the launch – when Falcon 9’s first stage rocket attempts once again to return to Earth and land on a floating drone ship, a key step in achieving truly reusable rocket flight.
The last time SpaceX tried to land the Falcon 9’s reusable first-stage rocket, it ran out of hydraulic fluid used in stabilizing the craft, resulting in a spectacular explosion you can see in the Vine embedded above. Musk tweeted about having another crack at nailing the autonomous drone ship re-landing, by which he meant today’s mission. Musk joked at the time that any potential explosion with this attempt (or ‘rapid unscheduled disassembly’) should at least result from something other than a shortfall in hydraulic fluid, which represents a kind of progress.
This attempt also involves a much more challenging return trajectory, meaning additional risk factors apply. Succeed or fail, however, we should be closer after the launch to a truly reusable rocket than we were before.