SpaceX gears up for rocket landing

Posted at 7:35 PM, Dec 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-21 19:38:02-05

NEW YORK — After two delays, SpaceX is again scheduled to launch an unmanned spacecraft and then safely land the rocket that propels it into orbit.

The launch, slated to leave from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station around 8:30 p.m. ET, will be a key moment for SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

It’s the first SpaceX mission since June, when a faulty strut caused its spaceship to explode mid air and destroy the NASA cargo it was carrying.

SpaceX has completed 20 successful trips since 2006, but launches have been on hiatus since that accident.

On Monday, it hopes to make a comeback that will accomplish two things. The mission’s primary objective is to put 11 small satellites into low orbit for Orbcomm’s new satellite network.

SpaceX also hopes to successfully execute a rocket landing, which would be a big step towards making space travel cheaper.

Since rockets detach from the spaceship after liftoff, returning them safely to Earth would allow them to be reused — a huge cost savings.

“A jumbo jet costs about the same as one of our Falcon 9 rockets, but airlines don’t junk a plane after a one-way trip from LA to New York,” SpaceX explained on its blog. The company’s rockets cost between $60 and $90 million.

It will be SpaceX’s fourth attempt to safely land a rocket.

SpaceX’s first try at landing the rocket in January was thwarted when the fins meant to guide the rocket’s descent stopped working, and it crashed into the drone ship it was meant to land on.

The second try in April was nearly successful, but a brief engine malfunction caused the rocket to fall off its platform and into the ocean.

Then came SpaceX’s June attempt to execute a mid-sea landing, which ended in an explosion.

Monday will be the first time SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9 on land.

It’ll also be Musk’s chance to back up the comments he made after Blue Origin, the private space travel company headed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, successfully landed its own rocket.

Blue Origin achieved a safe rocket landing after a launch on November 24, igniting a few defensive Twitter comments from Musk.

The launch can be seen live on