Published: Tue, June 06, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

ISS supply rocket launches successfully

SpaceX has now achieved its fifth successful ground-based landing for its Falcon 9 rockets, but what makes this weekend's launch really special was that it was also the first time the rocket company reused one of its Dragon cargo capsules.

"SpaceX did a very thorough job in terms of certification of the Dragon and refurbing it, and NASA did a very thorough job of understanding that certification and making sure that it was safe to fly and that risk was not substantially more than a brand new Dragon capsule", said Kirk Shireman, NASA ISS program manager, at the same pre-launch briefing. USA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer are expected to receive the craft using the International Space Station's robotic arm at 10 a.m. EDT Monday.

The trip will mark the second time that SpaceX has sent this spacecraft, called Dragon, to the ISS - it also made a similar supply run in 2014.

SpaceX continues to get more use out of its individual rockets and spacecraft than just about any other organization in history.

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About seven minutes after launch, the Falcon 9's first-stage booster landed upright at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. But this is the first time it's reused the craft that actually goes into orbit.

Dragon is expected to reach the space laboratory today and astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer will use a robotic arm to capture the vehicle. Several of its Falcon 9 rockets have returned upright to platforms floating in the ocean.

Liftoff took place at 5:07 p.m. EDT (21:07 GMT) on June 3, 2017, from historic Launch Complex 39A, the same pad that most of NASA's Space Shuttles, as well as almost every Saturn V rockets, launched from.

Two minutes and 25 seconds after liftoff, after boosting the rocket out of the thick lower atmosphere, the first stage engine shut down. The art of recapturing a rocket after an orbital launch is one of SpaceX's signature moves, and it's done by no other rocket launcher. That's important to SpaceX for cutting down the entire costs of spaceflight, as manned Dragon missions are going to be a reality.

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So far, that makes five successful landings ashore to add to a handful of drone ship landings, which took a little longer to ideal. SpaceX has been upping the cadence of its launches as of late. This will be the 100th launch, and sixth SpaceX launch, from pad 39A.

"It has tremendous implications for humans with respect to long-term space travel or habitation", said UCLA's Dr. Chia Soo, the project's principal investigator.

"We've invested a significant amount of money that we need to recover", Koenigsmann said. The capsule, which was last sent carrying supplies to the ISS in September 2014, has nearly the same parts from its earlier flight.

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