The countdown is on. SpaceX is set to launch a recycled rocket to space for the first time.
Liftoff is scheduled for Thursday at 6:27 p.m. ET at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The launch will mark the first time SpaceX — the private space venture headed by Tesla ( CEO Elon Musk — will use a first-stage rocket booster that was previously flown to space and returned safely to Earth. )
The company said on Twitter around noon that the rocket is on the launch pad.
There’s a backup launch window on April 1, according to SpaceX, in case the flight needs to be postponed due to bad weather or issues with the rocket.
The launch is a big step for SpaceX. Reusing rockets is essential for companies like SpaceX that want to drive down the cost of space travel.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket costs about $62 million. If it can be used more than once, SpaceX can drastically bring down the price of a single launch.
SpaceX confirmed to CNNMoney in August that its client for this trip will get a discount on the Falcon 9 sticker price, but it declined to say by how much.
The rocket that SpaceX will use Thursday was previously used in an April 2016 mission to the International Space Station. After launch, it was guided to a landing on a seaborne platform, called a droneship.
After its launch Thursday evening, SpaceX will again attempt to guide the first-stage rocket booster onto a droneship.
But recapturing the rocket is a secondary concern for SpaceX. The primary goal is to deliver a communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit — about 22,000 miles from Earth — for the company that commissioned this launch, SES.
The satellite — called SES-10 — is intended to provide TV, radio, telephone and internet coverage for South America. SES says SES-10 will also have “the ability to support off-shore oil and gas exploration.”
CNNMoney (New York) First published March 30, 2017: 2:17 PM ET