Elon Musk's quest to make rocket landings routine continues

By Christian Davenport

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket stands after making its first successful upright landing. Photo / Getty Images
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket stands after making its first successful upright landing. Photo / Getty Images

Looks like a beautiful day for a launch. Sunny, 80 degrees, a slight breeze moving the stratocumulous clouds around just a bit off Florida's Cape Canaveral. The Air Force says there's a 90 per cent chance for "go" for SpaceX's launch of a commercial satellite at 5:40 p.m. Thursday.

Elon Musk's SpaceX is attempting to deliver a commercial communications satellite to orbit. As part of the mission, it will attempt, once again, to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a platform a couple hundred miles off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean. But because the destination for the satellite is an orbit some 22,000 miles high, "the first-stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing challenging," the company said in a statement.

Still, SpaceX stuck the landing the last time under similar conditions. And now in its quest to launch and recover rockets so that they may be used again, SpaceX is acquiring quite a collection of previously used booster stages: Two that landed on platforms at sea, and one that landed on a pad the company has built on the Cape.

Reusing rockets, instead of ditching them in the ocean as had been the norm since the Apollo era, is a key to lower the cost of space travel and making it more accessible to the masses, Musk has said. Meantime, the company continues to practice. And you get to watch the livestream.

"We'll be successful, ironically, when it becomes boring. When it's like, 'Oh, yeah, another landing. No news there,'" Musk said after the first sea landing in April.

In the meantime, the company's hangar is filling up with used boosters.

WATCH: Top CEOs talk commercial space flight:

- Washington Post

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