Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX hoping to repeat ocean-landing with May 3 launch

SpaceX CRS 8 Full Thrust Falcon 9 at Port Canaveral Photo Credit Michael McCabe SpaceFlight Insider

Photo Credit: Michael McCabe / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX is hoping for a repeat performance of the landing success that it achieved on April 8, 2016. Although the 45th Space Wing, who manage the Eastern Range, have stated that no official launch date has been announced, an attempt could be made to launch the JCSAT-14 communications satellite as early as May 3.

A Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket has been tasked with sending the Japanese communications satellite some 22,000 miles above the Earth.

JCSAT-14 is based on the SSL-1300 satellite platform. The satellite will replace the JCSAT-2A (JCSat 8) at 154° East longitude and expands on its capacity to meet the growing demand for telecommunications services in the Asia Pacific region. The satellite is designed to deliver service for at least 15 years.

As was the case earlier this month, SpaceX will try to have the Falcon 9’s first stage conduct a controlled landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship that will be waiting for the stage’s return out in the Atlantic Ocean.

After the April 8 landing, SpaceX brought the stage into Port Canaveral on April 12 where it stayed for several days before it was transported to Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A that SpaceX has signed a 20-year lease with NASA to use.

This isn’t the first time that SpaceX has landed a Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage – the stage will have company when it arrives at LC-39A.

The rocket will join the first stage of the Falcon 9 that the company landed at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1 after the successful launch of 11 Orbcomm OG2 satellites in December of last year (2015).

According to a report appearing on Florida Today, the fate of the two rockets will not be the same, however. The one that made the historic ground landing last year will be sent to the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne. Meanwhile, the booster that carried out this month’s ocean landing will be tested before potentially being reused on an upcoming mission.


Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

Gooooo SpaceX and continue making history!!!!!!

I will be in Orlando (ESPN actually) on May 3rd for an afternoon training class. I’d like to know the expected launch window to see if a quick trip to Titusville or Cocoa Beach is possible to see the launch. Anyone know where that information can be found?

We’re understanding that the launch window extends two hours from 1:22 a.m. until 3:22 a.m. EDT.
Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

FYI, I found the launch window info after searching a little deeper: “This mission was aiming to launch on April 28 in an early morning window ranging from 01:22 Eastern, through to 03:22. UPDATE:However, this has since been moved to May 3, with the same launch window.”

.. and thank you for your reply!

Having two recovered boosters is a type of corporate intelligence that is incredibly hard to come by. There is an old Henry Ford story that he would send engineers to junk yards for old Fords. They would bring them back and tear them down. Parts that showed an inordinate amount of wear were improved. Parts that showed little or no wear were down-engineered to save the weight. That knowledge was something that none of his competitors had.

I really do feel sorry for the folks at ULA. They have little room to do anything except lay off employees. But with manufacturing spread all over the world, it will be almost impossible to get in the price range of SpaceX. This may get them good Congressional support, but it makes true quality control almost impossible.

I hope they put the December landed booster on display at Headquarters. There is nice space out by the Superchargers that would be perfect!

The article states the two recovered Falcon 9 boosters will eventually be at KSC LC-39A which SpaceX has leased from NASA for the next 20 years. But if I understand correctly, all SpaceX launches are made from Cape Canaveral AFS SLC-40. Just wondering what facilities SpaceX has at KSC LC-39A that aren’t available to them at AFS SLC-40?

Hi DL,
SpaceX has an agreement with the USAF to use Canaveral’s SLC-40 in Florida / SLC-4E in California. They have also signed a 20-year lease with NASA to use KSC’s LC-39A. SpaceX is hoping to launch its Falcon Heavy from LC-39A later this year (as well as possibly a test flight of its crewed Dragon spacecraft).

The article is correct. SpaceX transported both of the Falcon 9s whose first stages successfully landed – to LC-39A.

SpaceX has launched its Falcon 9 rocket twice from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s SLC-4E in California (not all launches of the Falcon 9 have taken place from SLC-40).

Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider.

…thanks for the background info Jason. Perhaps after one more successful Falcon 9 recovery and refurb of those three at KSC, SpaceX will combine them into the first Falcon Heavy. Doing so would seem to present significant cost savings over flying three new boosters for the first Falcon Heavy test flight.

Hi DL,
My pleasure! That’s the idea, to reuse engines / parts from prior missions to drive the cost of launch down. If you haven’t seen the animation of the Falcon Heavy landing – you should watch it! Here’s a link: Falcon Heavy
Sincerely, Jason Rhian – Editor, SpaceFlight Insider

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