Los Angeles-based SpaceX launched an unprecedented mission Friday, deploying a previously used rocket and spacecraft on an unmanned journey to bring 4,800 pounds of fresh supplies to the International Space Station.
The launch was originally planned on Tuesday but was first postponed until Wednesday, then until Friday morning.
“Taking additional time for the team to conduct full inspections and cleanings due to detection of particles in 2nd stage fuel system,” the company announced via Twitter on Tuesday.
After launch at 7:36 a.m. California time, SpaceX successfully brought its used Falcon 9 rocket down to the company’s ground-based Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral. This was the 14th landing SpaceX has pulled off this year, and the second time this particular vehicle has landed following take off.
With the mission — the company’s 17th launch of 2017 — SpaceX achieved a historical milestone by simultaneously using a Falcon rocket and Dragon spacecraft that have both served in previous flights. The Dragon is scheduled to reach the space station on Sunday.
The CRS-13 mission “will refly both an orbital rocket and spacecraft for the first time,” company founder Elon Musk wrote on his social media accounts in advance of the mission.
The mission is the 13th space-station resupply mission the company has flown under a contract with NASA that calls for SpaceX to make as many as 20 trips to the orbiting outpost.
The Dragon spacecraft being used in the mission has been to the International Space Station once before. It was used in a resupply mission flown in April 2015. The Falcon 9 rocket that will boost the spacecraft into orbit was used in a resupply mission in June of this year.
SpaceX has been working to perfect the process of reusing the first stage of its Falcon 9 rockets as a major cost-savings tool.
The company has re-used rockets before, but Friday’s launch marked the first time SpaceX has used both a recycled rocket and spacecraft at the same time in its effort to usher in a program of more affordable space flights.
— City News Service
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