It’s going to be a busy seven days for the private space industry, with a pair of launches from the companies operating the new delivery trucks to the International Space Station. Both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences will be flying rockets in the coming week, and the launches are happening on opposite coasts.
First up is SpaceX, which has already made three flights to the ISS, one demo flight and two cargo flights. This weekend Elon Musk’s company is expected to test fly a new, stretched version of its Falcon 9 rocket. The new rocket will also be launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the first time SpaceX has launched the Falcon 9 from anywhere other than Florida’s Cape Canaveral.
The upcoming flight does have a payload on board – a Canadian spacecraft – but it is primarily a test flight, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is understandably cautious.
“Upcoming Falcon 9 demo has a lot of new technology, so the probability of failure is significant,” he said on Twitter.
Musk told Spacenews.com that the company is “being, as usual, extremely paranoid about the launch.” With the higher risk of failure, the Canadian Space Agency did get a significant discount for carrying its payload, “maybe 20 percent of the normal price” Musk said.
In addition to the new hardware and launch site, SpaceX will also be attempting to relight the engine on the booster stage just before it hits the ocean. The effort is a small step towards SpaceX’s goal of creating a reusable first stage rocket that can return to a landing site after launch.