UPDATE: SpaceX successfully launched the satellite but encountered some issues during landing. The rocket ended up on its side because a leg lockout didn't latch.

If you would like to learn more about the attempt, see our original coverage of the event, which was published pre-launch. It starts just below the break.


Today, (Jan. 17, 2016) SpaceX is going to launch a rocket. This rocket, a Falcon 9, will thrust a payload into orbit, and then it will return to Earth. However, it won’t be burning up in our atmosphere like so many satellites. It also won’t have a crash landing in the ocean. Instead, the plan is for the rocket to land.

And it is going to land upright on a ship, which happens to be moving.

NASA details the plans for the historic launch, stating, "The Jason-3 international oceanography satellite mission is scheduled for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California on Sunday, Jan. 17. Liftoff aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4 East is targeted for 10:42 am PST (1:42 pm EST) at the opening of a 30-second launch window."

If there are issues, a backup launch is already set for Monday, Jan. 18 at 10:31 am. PST (1:31 pm EST)."

You can see NASA's live coverage below:

Last month (December 21, 2015), SpaceX made history by launching its Falcon 9 rocket into space and then bringing it back to solid ground at Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the first time that a rocket had launched something to orbit and landed back on the planet safely.

This is such a historical event because, usually, its first-stage rocket is discarded after reaching space. This obviously costs a lot of money.

And of course, it would be far cheaper to have reusable rockets than to have to create entirely new rockets each and every time you want to go to space. And this is precisely why SpaceX is working on this reusable rocket—it could make space exploration truly sustainable in the long run.

So, after the Jason 3 satellite launch, SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9 rocket first stage on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean. The below image gives you some idea of what Jason 3 looks like.

Artist concept of Jason 3 in space. Image credit: NASA

Jason-3 is an international mission which the NOAA contributed some $177 million to. They gave this money in order to assist with the satellite’s construction and operational lifespan, also covering NASA’s funding.

The European weather agency EUMETSAT contributed some $119 million (which is the equivalent of 110 million Euros), and the French space agency CNES contributed $68 million (63 million Euros).

It is some rather expensive tech, to say the least. So it is hoped that there will be no setbacks, but of course, getting to space is no easy task. Despite even the most careful work, there could be accidents. To that end, be sure to check back in throughout the day to monitor the events.

You can see how all the various stages of the SpaceX launch are supposed to go down in the image below.

Image credit: SpaceX

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