SpaceX Successfully Launches Used Dragon Cargo Ship in Historic First

For a initial time in a story of blurb spaceflight, a used upholder has bloody off on a thought to broach load to a International Space Station (ISS).


After lightning strikes behind a launch on Thursday (June 1), slow charge clouds split usually adequate for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to safely lift off from NASA’s ancestral Pad 39A during a Kennedy Space Center in Florida now (June 3).

The Falcon 9 rocket, surfaced with SpaceX’s initial refurbished Dragon load craft, took to a skies during 5:07 p.m. EDT (2107 GMT). About 8 mins after liftoff, a first-stage rocket upholder returned to Earth to hang a alighting during circuitously Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. [Launch Photos: SpaceX’s 1st Reused Dragon Spacecraft]

A small over 10 mins into a flight, a Dragon distant from a Falcon 9’s second stage, deployed a solar arrays and began a three-day trek to a ISS. On Monday (June 5), a upholder will wharf during a space station’s Harmony module, delivering tighten to 6,000 lbs. (2,700 kilograms) of reserve and scholarship experiments to a Expedition 52 crew.

Today’s launch noted a 100th thought to lift off from Launch Complex 39A, where NASA’s Apollo missions and dozens of space convey missions were also launched. “For [SpaceX], it’s a seventh launch this year, and we can tell that we picked adult a rate significantly,” Hans Koenigsmann, clamp boss of moody reusability during SpaceX, pronounced in a prelaunch lecture on Wednesday (May 31).

“We are anticipating to stay during this rate by a rest of a year and work a reserve down. We’re anticipating to also fly some-more and some-more refurbished Dragons, and a same is loyal for a initial stages,” he said. “The subsequent launch after this is also refurbished initial stage.”

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a used Dragon load qualification blasts off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jun 3, 2017.
Credit: SpaceX

Today’s thought is a latest in a array of ancestral firsts for SpaceX, a private spaceflight association founded by billionaire businessman Elon Musk. In March, a association successfully launched and landed a used rocket booster for a initial time. SpaceX is also a initial and usually association to have landed a rocket upholder during an orbital thought (though Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has achieved this mixed times on suborbital journeys). And in 2012, SpaceX’s Dragon plug became a initial private upholder to wharf during a ISS.

With a ultimate (and rarely ambitious) thought of being means to reuse all vital components of their launch vehicles, SpaceX is now putting a Dragon to a test. The plug initial flew on a load thought to a space hire on Sept. 21, 2014, for a load resupply thought CRS-4, and it returned to Earth with a splashdown in a Pacific Ocean one month later.

“Once this plug landed, we refurbished it, legalised it, done certain all is competent for a subsequent flight,” Koenigsmann said.

But a plug isn’t 100 percent reused parts, Koenigsmann added. Certain tools had to be transposed for a series of reasons, such as bearing to seawater during splashdown, he said, and a feverishness defense indispensable to be transposed for safety. “But we can tell we a infancy of this Dragon has been in space before and has been docked to a hire for a integrate of weeks.”

The subsequent stairs toward full reusability for SpaceX engage reckoning out how to remodel a second-stage rocket upholder and a cargo fairings — an desirous though critical goal, Koenigsmann said.

“This whole thought of reuse is something that’s really critical to a whole space attention and NASA as good as Space X and others,” Kirk Shireman, manager of NASA’s ISS program, pronounced in a briefing. “The thought of reuse is critical for mercantile reasons as good as technical reasons.” [SpaceX Gaining Substantial Cost Savings From Reused Falcon 9]

Along with food, water, wardrobe and other rigging for a astronauts during a space station, a Dragon will broach copiousness of scholarship experiments.

The experiments on house will support about 220 investigations now function during a space station. “They camber a crowd of systematic disciplines, including biological research, a earthy sciences, a tellurian examine that we’re doing with a astronauts, a record proof investigate Earth and space from a ISS, and afterwards final though not least, a educational activities that students have an event to attend in,” Camille Alleyne, an associate space hire module scientist during NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, pronounced during a briefing.

One astrophysics experiment, called a Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER), will examine a probability of utilizing proton stars — a ultradense cores of passed stars — to rise a form of interstellar GPS navigation system.

A new, initial form of solar row is also drifting to a space hire on a Dragon. Called a Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA), these new solar arrays are smaller, lighter and some-more fit than a stream solar panels that energy a ISS.

The Dragon also contains some live passengers, including 40 mice and thousands of fruit flies. For a plan called Rodent Research-5, a mice will assistance researchers investigate a new drug for osteoporosis, or bone firmness loss. The fruit flies will assistance investigators investigate a enlarged effects of spaceflight on a tellurian heart.

More Earth-observation instruments are also on their approach to a ISS. The Multiple-User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES) facility, grown by Teledyne Brown Engineering, contains new high-resolution digital cameras and hyperspectral imagers, bringing new capabilities to a space station’s apartment of Earth-observing technologies.

Email Hanneke Weitering during hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original essay on Space.com.


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