Update 6:10 p.m. EDT: SpaceX has postponed the first flight of the Falcon 9 Block 5 after the rocket triggered an abort with 58 seconds left on the countdown clock, just after the vehicle entered startup mode. SpaceX is reviewing the data to determine what triggered the Falcon 9's abort procedure.
SpaceX has a backup launch window reserved at Kennedy Space Center for the Bangabandhu-1 mission on Friday, May 11, between 4:14 p.m. EDT and 6:21 p.m. EDT.
SpaceX is poised to launch the first Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket, an upgraded version of the Falcon 9 designed for improved reusability and increased lifting power. Today's launch window runs from 5:47 p.m. EDT to 6:22 p.m. EDT, when SpaceX will attempt to launch the Bangabandhu-1 satellite from Launch Complex 39A at Florida's Kennedy Space Center to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). After liftoff, SpaceX will attempt to land the Block 5's first stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic.
You can watch a live webcast of the launch below, scheduled to begin about 20 minutes before liftoff.
Block 5 is to be the final iteration of the Falcon 9 rocket, which is the most frequently flying rocket today. Earlier models of the Falcon 9 were only launched twice due to deterioration of components on reentry and landing. A single Block 5 booster, however, with improved thermal coating and additional upgrades, is without significant refurbishment, and potentially as many as 100 times for a single booster.
SpaceX has also fine tuned the nine Merlin rocket engines on Block 5, each putting out 8 percent more thrust than previous models. The new vehicle should produce about 1.7 million pounds of thrust as it rockets off the pad.
The satellite for the mission, Bangabandhu-1, weighs in at about 3,500 kg, which is well below the Falcon 9's payload capacity to GTO. Upon arriving at geostationary orbit, where Bangabandhu-1 will hover over one part of the globe as Earth rotates, the satellite will provide communications services for Bangladesh and the surrounding region.
Elon Musk has said Block 5 will be the last round of upgrades to Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy before SpaceX pivots to full-scale development of its next rocket, the BFR. SpaceX recently to develop the BFR, and Musk has said he hopes to begin short "hopper" test flights up the vehicles upper-stage "spaceship" as soon as next year.
Today, however, we have a brand new model of the Falcon 9 vertical on the pad, ready to launch to space. Let the Block 5 fly.
*The post has been updated with new launch window times and thrust specs.