Against a crisp blue sky, SpaceX launched a resupply mission to the International Space Station shortly after noon today — and a sonic boom accompanying its re-entry foretold a successful landing at Cape Canaveral.
A Dragon spacecraft carrying cargo for NASA destined to reach the International Space Station departed Earth from Launch Complex 39A at 12:31 p.m.
The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage successfully detached and, about six minutes in, began a re-entry burn that lasted about 20 seconds before the 156-foot-tall vehicle landed vertically.
About 10 minutes in, the Dragon capsule detached from the rocket’s second stage to head toward ISS. About 13 minutes in, its solar arrays deployed as its propulsion system prepared to push the capsule toward the orbiting space station. SpaceX confirmed proper orbit and said ISS will capture the vehicle Wednesday.
Weather and launch conditions were optimal, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s @45thSpaceWing Twitter account had posted just after noon Monday.
SpaceX’s launch is part of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services Contract.
Experiments make up most of the 6,400 pounds of cargo, The Associated Press reported. That includes 20 mice. The Dragon capsule is also doubling as an ice-cream truck this time. There was extra freezer space, so NASA packed little cups of vanilla, chocolate and birthday-cake ice cream for the station's crew of six, as well as ice cream candy bars. Those treats should be especially welcomed by U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, in orbit since November.
SpaceX’s launch is the first of two planned for this week.
United Launch Alliance has a launch scheduled for 8:03 a.m. Friday from Launch Complex 41 in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
That launch will carry a weather satellite for NASA. The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System had been planned for an Aug. 3 launch. However, in July, United Launch Alliance delayed liftoff after the 7,615-pound satellite’s antenna was damaged at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville during encapsulation.
In November, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket; Elon Musk on Sunday posted video to Instagram depicting the the launch and the landing plans for the rocket’s three boosters.
“FH is twice the thrust of the next largest rocket currently flying and ~2/3 thrust of the Saturn V moon rocket. Lot that can go wrong in the November launch ...” Musk said in the post about the Falcon Heavy mission.
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