Later tonight, SpaceX will attempt to launch its most powerful Falcon 9 rocket and deliver a large payload of satellites into orbit. But that’s the easy part; SpaceX will also try to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 (the long portion of the rocket that contains the engines and fuel) back on Earth, which would make it the first time an orbital rocket has successfully achieve a land landing, SpaceX said.
The mission is set for Monday night from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a planned liftoff time of 8:29 EST. So, in other words, just in time for dinner. The current plan is to launch Falcon 9, deliver some satellites into orbit, and then land back at a missile and testing range formerly used by the U.S. Air Force.
SpaceX attempted to land the Falcon 9 on floating ocean barges earlier this year, though the company was unsuccessful; previously, the private space company showed its rocket technology successfully landing on land, though it didn’t actually go to orbit. A competitor, Amazon’s Blue Origin rocket, successfully launched and landed in November after reaching an altitude of 329,000 feet.
The ability to reuse rockets for future missions could cut the cost of shuttling supplies and astronauts to space by a considerable amount, which makes today’s test so important. The launch was originally scheduled for Sunday evening, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that Monday had a 10 percent greater chance of a good landing.
We’ll see if SpaceX can manage to deliver its payload and land its Falcon 9 rocket later this evening.