X-37B launches on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 7, 2017.


US Air Force/Timothy Kirchner

SpaceX is set to launch another Falcon 9 rocket from Florida on Monday and has three ships standing by in the Atlantic to recover the booster and nose cone shortly thereafter. 

The routine mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will send into orbit a pair of communications satellites — JCSAT-18 and Kacific1 — to provide services to mostly Asian markets. 

Elon Musk’s company will again show off its recycling prowess with this mission, as the Falcon 9 first-stage booster to be used will be flying for the third time. It previously supported two commercial resupply runs to the International Space Station in May and July.

After the two rocket stages separate, the main lower booster will return to land on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic. About 45 minutes after liftoff, the two halves of the nose cone, or fairing, which shields the satellites during ascent, will fall back to the ocean as well. Two ships equipped with giant nets, Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief, will be waiting to catch both halves. 

SpaceX has caught one of the fairing halves before, and those components also been fished out of the ocean, refurbished and flown again, but this could be the first time the company catches both halves of the fairing right after a launch. 

Weather is looking good for the scheduled launch as early as 7:10 p.m. ET (4:10 p.m. PT) Monday. SpaceX is expected to begin livestreaming about 15 minutes before and you can watch via the embed below. 

Consider it a warmup for a big launch Tuesday of the European CHEOPS observatory designed to study alien worlds in detail. 


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