Elon Musk's SpaceX will resume launches from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral in December with the launch of a space station-bound supply ship on top of a Falcon 9 booster. The launch is seen as a major step in boosting the company's flight rate and preparing for the debut of the long-delayed Falcon Heavy rocket.
The flight will blast off on 4 December at about 2:52 pm EST at around the time, the International Space Station's orbital pathway lines up with the launch trajectory heading northeast from Cape Canaveral.
Some adjustments of a few minutes could be made to the exact timing of the launch, assuming it remains unchanged as engineers track changes in the space station's orbit in the coming weeks.
All of SpaceX's missions this year have launched from pad 39A, a former Apollo and space shuttle launch complex the company leased from NASA. The Falcon 9's launch pad 40 which was used earlier, suffered significant damage when a rocket exploded there 1 September, 2016, during fueling before a customary pre-flight hold-down engine firing. It is located a few miles to the south at neighbouring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
According to investigators, the most likely cause of the explosion was the rupture of a high-pressure helium reservoir inside the Falcon 9's upper stage liquid oxygen tank.
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is designed to be able to carry humans into space, something Musk's company has not yet done, but it is likely to be first used to haul some heavier satellites. SpaceX has scheduled four launches which will use Falcon Heavy.
In addition to sending big stuff into orbit, a key selling point for the Falcon Heavy, according to Musk, is that it will restore the possibility of sending humans beyond the International Space Station, perhaps to the moon or even Mars.