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SpaceX set to debut 'Block 5' rocket upgrade for satellite launch

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SpoaceX's new Falcon 9 Block 5 being rolled out to launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (Elon Musk/Instagram)

SpoaceX's new Falcon 9 Block 5 being rolled out to launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (Elon Musk/Instagram)

SpaceX is set to launch the first Bangladeshi satellite into orbit on an upgraded version of its Falcon 9 rocket Thursday.

Bangabandhu Satellite-1 is scheduled to blast off from launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The launch window opens at 4:12 p.m. EDT and closes at 6:21 p.m. EDT. The satellite will be transferred into a geostationary orbit approximately 33 minutes after launch, according to SpaceX.

If SpaceX is unable to launch the satellite on Thursday, a backup window is scheduled for Friday.

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The mission is also the first to use Falcon 9 Block 5, which SpaceX describes as the “final substantial upgrade” to the rocket. “Block 5 is designed to be capable of 10 or more flights with very limited refurbishment,” the company explains, on its website.

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Similar to previous launches, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster on its “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The Elon Musk-led company is committed to a strategy of returning its boosters to Earth in an attempt to reduce the costs of spaceflight.

Space.com reports that, while SpaceX has landed and a re-launched a number of Falcon 9 first stages, none has been launched more than twice.

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This is a busy time for SpaceX, which recently launched its 14th resupply mission to the International Space Station, sent 10 next-generation satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications and launched NASA’s TESS exoplanet hunter.

SpaceX also launched its first Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this year, with the test flight laying the foundations for ambitious future missions. The new, larger rocket is designed to hoist supersize satellites as well as equipment to the moon, Mars or other far-flung points.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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