SpaceX poised for 50th launch of Falcon 9 rocket


This April 14, 2015 still image from NASA TV shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

MIAMI - SpaceX is poised for the 50th launch of its signature Falcon 9 rocket early on Tuesday, marking a swift ascent to a milestone many aerospace giants take far longer to attain.

The launch of the Falcon 9 carrying the Hispasat, a Spanish telecommunications and broadband satellite, is scheduled for 12:33am Miami time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

"At six metric tons and almost the size of a city bus, it will be the largest geostationary satellite we&39;ve ever flown," SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said on Twitter.

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The satellite aims to expand television, broadband and telecommunications service in Europe and Northwest Africa.

The Falcon 9 first flew in 2010, and since then has become the California-based company&39;s workhorse for sending supplies to the International Space Station, launching commercial satellites and secretive government payloads.

Powered by nine Merlin engines, the Falcon 9&39;s first stage has also mastered the art of landing upright on solid ground or on floating platforms in the ocean after launch.

These "recycled" rocket launches are part of SpaceX&39;s goal to lower the cost of spaceflight and re-use expensive rocket parts instead of tossing them in the ocean after each launch.

But SpaceX will not attempt to land Falcon 9&39;s booster Tuesday "due to unfavourable weather conditions in the recovery area off of Florida&39;s Atlantic Coast," the company said in a statement.

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According to the website ArsTechnica, SpaceX reaching 50 launches is "double the maximum number of flights the Atlas V (2014 and 2015) and space shuttle (1985) performed during their most prolific years."

Musk&39;s grand visions for space exploration, include sending tourists into orbit around the Moon and eventually, colonising Mars.

Last month, SpaceX launched its monster Falcon Heavy rocket - three times as powerful as the Falcon 9 - for the first time, propelling Musk&39;s own Tesla Roadster with a spacesuit-clad dummy at the wheel into an orbit near Mars.