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SpaceX Lofts Supplies To Space Station On “Flight-Proven” Rocket

Nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies are on the way to the International Space Station thanks to private company SpaceX. The mission marks the first time NASA is using a recycled rocket from SpaceX to ship cargo to the station.

After Friday’s launch, this rocket has now lofted supplies to the station twice. Earlier this summer, the booster sent a cargo capsule called Dragon to the ISS. Less than ten minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed the booster back at Cape Canaveral.

The booster was refurbished and prepped for another launch and yet again, shortly after liftoff, SpaceX landed the booster. The cargo capsule launched Friday is also what SpaceX likes to call ‘flight proven’ — it made a trip to the station back in 2015.

The launch marks the return of SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40. The pad was damaged after an explosion during a routine test back in September 2016. SpaceX spent about $50 million bringing the pad back online and upgrading it to support future Falcon 9 flights.

It’s likely the last Florida launch for SpaceX until 2018. In early January, the private company is planning to launch a secret payload code named “Zuma.” Later in the month, SpaceX plans to fly it’s heavy-lift rocket Falcon Heavy for the first time.

Falcon Heavy has long been delayed. Founder Elon Musk said the development of the rocket was more challenging than initially thought. The heavy-lift rocket consists of three Falcon 9 cores, or booster rockets, that fire 27 rocket engines simultaneously to loft large payloads into orbit. SpaceX said it will attempt to land all three boosters after liftoff.

Musk has lowered the expectations for the first launch of Falcon Heavy. “There’s a lot that could go wrong there,” he said at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference this summer. “There’s real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit.”

The cargo capsule launched Friday will arrive at the space station Sunday. NASA pays private companies like SpaceX to ship supplies to the ISS. SpaceX hopes to lower the cost of access to space by reusing parts of the rocket. So far, the private company has landed 20 boosters.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Intersection' Producer

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts "Are We There Yet?", WMFE's space exploration podcast He also helps produce WMFE's twice-weekly public affairs show "Intersection," working with host Matthew Peddie to shape the ... Read Full Bio »