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12 May 2018, 01:28 | Justin Tyler
It soared from NASA's Kennedy Space Center into a hazy afternoon sky, carrying a communication satellite named Bangabandhu-1 after the founding father of Bangladesh.
The Falcon 9 is SpaceX's workhorse, regularly hauling satellites into orbit and supplies to the International Space Station. The satellite is expected to expand communication capabilities across Bangladesh and in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia. This is the most powerful version of the private space company's Falcon 9 rocket, one featuring upgrades that enhance its reusability.
"We expect there would be literally no action taken between flights, so just like aircraft", Musk said, describing the many years of effort that went into the rocket as "crazy hard".
But the countdown came to an abrupt halt with less than a minute remaining.
"This rocket is really designed...to be the most reliable rocket ever built", Musk said Thursday.
The upgraded Falcon 9 is created to be used up to 10 times with only minor refurbishment. By the end of next year, Musk aims to demonstrate that a single Falcon 9 booster could be used for two orbital launches within 24 hours. "Ironically, we need to take it apart to prove that it does not need to be taken apart", he joked.
"With the launch of Bangabandhu-1, we are hoisting our national flag into space". NASA requires seven successful flights before the new rocket receives final certification for a manned mission. In total, Falcon 9 rockets have made more than 50 trips to space over the past eight years.
The Block-5 also marks another milestone for Musk's California-based company. SpaceX aims to recover the Falcon 9's nose cone, or fairing, by having it deploy a parafoil and sail into a giant net deployed from a ship.
"Would you rather fly in an aircraft that has never had a test flight before, or do you want to fly on an aircraft that has flown many times successfully?" he told reporters.
Reusability is a key priority for Musk and his company.
The rocket is created to require far less maintenance and refurbishment between flights, and is certified to carry humans to space later this year when SpaceX launches its Dragon crew capsule to the International Space Station.
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