SpaceX has completed another successful Falcon 9 landing and the first private space flight to ever be launched on NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A. The rocket blasted new supplies to the International Space Station.
It was the first successful landing since returning to regular launches following a disastrous explosion on the launch pad in September last year. The launch was a delayed one, scrapped at the last second this past Friday a mere 13 seconds before launch when a problem was noticed in the rocket’s second stage boosters.
The flight took place at 9:39 a.m. EST with the first stage separating from the second about 2:30 after launch. The second tage continued carrying the Dragon capsule, which should arrive at the ISS on Tuesday. Its 5,500 pounds (2,500 kg) of supplies will be exchanged for 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) and sent back to Earth in a month’s time.
“Consumable-wise, we’re in great shape; we’ve got well above our reserve levels for food and water, so we’ve really dedicated this Dragon mission to the research,” said the ISS program’s deputy manager Dan Hartman at a Friday press conference. “It’s chock-full, and the crew’s really going to enjoy the science we’re getting ready to bring out.”
Cargo includes an ozone-researching tool dubbed the SAGE-III and lightning-tracking machine called the Lightning Imaging Sensor. This is the eighth first stage landing SpaceX has pulled off using the Falcon 9 and the tenth cargo mission to the space station (nine of them have been successful).
“You can see that this particular SpaceX launch is going to keep our crew busy; it keeps us busy every day,” ISS Associate Scientist Tara Ruttley said during a press conference Friday.
Launch Complex 39A is a historic landmark as the site from which Apollo 11 and other missions were launched. It’s the first use of the pad since 2011 and very first by a private rocket company.
Musk tweeted over the weekend that it was highly unlikely the anomaly detected during the originally scheduled liftoff would have resulted in a cataclysm, but it would be prudent to just wait a couple more days.
Btw, 99% likely to be fine (closed loop TVC wd overcome error), but that 1% chance isn't worth rolling the dice. Better to wait a day.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 18, 2017
NASA has hired SpaceX and Boeing to start flying actual crew to the ISS by the end of next year. With that in mind, NASA took a special interest in this particular launch, reported Reuters.
While SpaceX’s launch success rate is high and considered acceptable by industry standards, the multiplying number of small customers trying to get their own material into space has resulted in some lost business.
Thanks to last week’s ISRO PSLV-C37 launch, Israel’s SpacePharma finally got its own bio-testing nanosatellite into orbit. SpacePharma had originally planned to go up with SpaceX, but a year of delays forced them to use a back-up. That launch also included an 88-strong nanosatellite constellation from Planet (formerly Planet Labs), and research satellites from Israel’s Ben Gurion University and the UAE’s American University of Sharjah.