They've done it again!
SpaceX has successfully launched a capsule into orbit carrying critical cargo destined for the International Space Station (ISS). The Dragon capsule was launched with the liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket at 12:45 a.m. EDT today (July 18th) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The 15-story Falcon 9 rocket booster then returned to Earth just 8 minutes after it launched the capsule into orbit, landing safely a few kilometers away from the launch pad.
“Each commercial resupply flight to the space station is a significant event. Everything, from the science to the spare hardware and crew supplies, is vital for sustaining our mission,” said Kirk Shireman, NASA’s International Space Station Program manager.
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“With equipment to enable novel experiments never attempted before in space, and an international docking adapter vital to the future of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft, we’re thrilled this Dragon has successfully taken flight.”
Among the 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of inventory that’s making its way to the ISS, the Dragon capsule contains food, 280 scientific experiments, and other equipment that’s required onboard the ISS. The capsule also includes a crucial docking adaptor — the first of two which will allow Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to fly crew to the ISS starting in 2017 as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The Dragon capsule is due to reach the ISS on Wednesday July 20th. Crew members on board the ISS will use the station’s 57.7-foot (17.6-meter) Canadarm2 to reach and capture the Dragon Capsule and dock it to the station upon arrival. After a month-long stay at the ISS, the Dragon capsule will then return to Earth, making a splash landing off the coast of Baja California.
So far, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has managed to successfully return five rocket boosters back to Earth after launch, two on the ground and three to a sea-based platform. Unfortunately, none of the boosters were technically capable of a second launch. All things considered, it was still a major achievement to land a rocket booster on Earth after launch!
SpaceX recently announced that they will be launching their first “reusable” this fall.
In case you missed it, you can watch a replay of the Dragon Capsule launch here:
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