SpaceX is renowned for its Falcon 9 rocket, which frequently caters to NASA’s International Space Station resupply missions and sends Earth-orbiting satellites into space for commercial partners. But it wasn’t until recently that the space company began using an upgraded version of its Falcon 9 rocket known as the ‘Block 5.’
Image Credit: SpaceX/Twitter
The Block 5 Falcon 9 first took flight in May when the company used it to send a Bangabandhu Satellite-1 into space. But SpaceX recently refurbished that rocket, and it was used once again on Tuesday during a launch that took place at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:18 A.M. Eastern time.
The launch involved lifting the Merah Putih communications satellite to a geostationary transfer orbit in space. The satellite was carefully tucked inside of the Falcon 9’s cargo hold, which resides at the top of the rocket.
SpaceX provided a live stream of Tuesday’s launch from the company’s website at the time, but you can also observe it via the YouTube video embedded below if you missed it:
After the rocket performed its primary mission, SpaceX commanded it to land upright on a drone ship with a landing pad in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This fully-autonomous landing sequence performed flawlessly after the rocket put the satellite into space.
Tuesday’s launch was particularly significant because it marked the first time in history that SpaceX used a refurbished Block 5 variant of its Falcon 9 rocket.
The Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket supersedes the company’s previous-generation Block 4 Falcon 9 and offers more engine thrust and superior reusability. Not only does it recover and clean up nicer than the previous-generation Falcon 9, but the same rocket can allegedly fly up to ten separate times before having to be retired.
At least two other Block 5 Falcon 9 rockets have launched since May, and are currently undergoing refurbishment so that they can be used in future missions.