Hawthorne rocket maker SpaceX is preparing to launch an upgraded version of its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a telecommunications satellite from Cape Canaveral.
The launch window opens Monday at 2:37 p.m. PST. It will be webcast on SpaceX’s website.
It will be the first time the company lifts a spacecraft to geostationary transfer orbit -- nearly 50,000 miles from Earth. It also marks SpaceX’s first launch of its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, dubbed Version 1.1, from Florida.
The company first launched the nine-engine rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, in September.
SpaceX, known formally as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., is looking to launch rockets carrying satellites for government and commercial customers at a rate of about once a month over the next five years.
In addition to launching small satellites, SpaceX has a $1.6-billion contract with NASA to make a dozen unmanned missions to restock the International Space Station. SpaceX has completed three flights so far to the orbiting laboratory.
SpaceX says Monday’s launch will be the most challenging mission to date.
The SES-8 telecommunications satellite weighs 7,055 pounds and was built by Orbital Sciences. It will provide signals to television and broadband for telecommunication company SES’ customers in Asia.
The Falcon 9 mission will also work toward certifying the company's rockets so they meet the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program's stringent requirements.
The company needs three launches on the rocket to break into the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program -- the lucrative business of launching national security satellites for the Pentagon.
United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of aerospace behemoths Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., is the currently the Pentagon's sole launch provider for such missions.