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.
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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.
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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.