SpaceX’s upgraded Falcon 9 makes its debut

SpaceX Falcon 90 launch
SpaceX’s first Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (SpaceX via YouTube)

SpaceX sent a Bangladeshi telecommunications satellite into orbit today atop what CEO Elon Musk calls the “last major version” of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.

But Musk has yet more tweaks up his sleeve: He’s aiming to make the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket — including its nose cone and second stage — fully reusable, with a turnaround time of as little as 24 hours.

“For those that know rockets, this is a ridiculously hard thing,” he told reporters during a pre-launch briefing. “It’s taken us, man, since 2002 — 16 years of extreme effort and many, many iterations and thousands of small but important development changes to get to where we think this is even possible.”

The Block 5 era began with today’s liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:14 p.m. ET (1:14 p.m. PT).

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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