On May 11, SpaceX launched the new, optimized-for-reuse Block 5 variant of its Falcon 9 rocket for the first time. Just before the flight, Ars asked company founder Elon Musk how long it would be before we saw the first reflight of a Block 5 booster.
“We are going to be very rigorous in taking this rocket apart and confirming our design assumptions to be confident that it is indeed able to be reused without taking it apart,” Musk said at the time.
Apparently it did not take that long to tear the first stage of this rocket apart, because less than three months later, this booster is back on the launch pad for a geostationary mission set to launch late Monday night. SpaceX is targeting launch of the Merah Putih satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit during a two-hour launch window that opens at 1:18am ET Tuesday (5:18 UTC). The launch will occur from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The first stage will attempt to make a landing on the drone ship after completing its primary mission. Weather conditions appear favorable.
Although company officials have not said much about the teardown process of the first Block 5 core, they appear to have found no showstoppers, given the quick turnaround. A successful launch this week of the 5.8-ton Merah Putih raises the possibility that SpaceX will be able to launch one of its Falcon 9 first stage rockets on three separate missions for the first time later this year.
It is worth recalling that SpaceX only flew a “used” booster for the first time in March 2017. On that occasion, the launch of the SES-10 satellite, it flew a Block 4 core of its rocket that had launched nearly 12 months earlier. Thus, a less-than-three-month turnaround of its first Block 5 rocket suggests that the modifications SpaceX made to optimize the reusability of the Falcon 9 rocket have had some success.
As always, SpaceX will broadcast the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket live. The webcast should begin about 15 minutes before the launch window opens.