SpaceX plans to launch Turkmenistan’s first communications satellite into orbit later today. The launch is set for 6:14 pm ET with a 60% chance of favorable weather according to SpaceX.

If SpaceX can’t launch today, they might have to wait a few more days. Showers and thunderstorms are expected to move into the Cape Canaveral area on Tuesday and Wednesday. The weather should clear up by Thursday.

SpaceX wasn’t originally picked to launch the satellite. The satellite was going to launch on a Chinese CZ-3B/G2 booster according to Spaceflight Insider. But, changes to U.S. regulations on US made parts in China led Thales Alenia Space (the manufacturer of the satellite) to pick SpaceX to launch the satellite.

“We appreciate Thales’ confidence in our ability to safely deliver Turkmenistan’s first satellite to orbit,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO, in a 2013 statement.

More details about this satellite

It’s called the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat and weighs 9,920 pounds. Check out the Falcon 9 rocket that will get the satellite into a geosynchronous orbit.

falcon 9 rocket spacex

Once the communications satellite is in orbit, its coverage zone will cover Europe, Central Asia (up to the Chinese border), and almost all of Africa.

We all know about SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. What you might not know, is that the rocket can still safely complete its mission even if there’s an engine shutdown. It helps having nine first-stage engines.

Head on over to SpaceX to watch the launch live. It doesn’t look like SpaceX is planning to land the first stage of the rocket during today’s launch.

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May 5th test of Dragon capsule

SpaceX is also planning a May 5th test of its human-rated Dragon capsule. The test will simulate an emergency abort from a test stand. This test will focus on the abort system that would save astronauts lives if an emergency ever occurred during launch.

It’s going to be a busy next few weeks for the folks at SpaceX. I’ll wrap it up with this cool Vine from SpaceX showing the Dragon’s solar array being deployed last week.

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