SpaceX Launches and Relands First Used Rocket for NASA Mission

Nettie James
December 16, 2017

On Dec. 15, at about 10:36 a.m. the Elon Musk-led space exploration company successfully launched almost 4,800 pounds of cargo en route to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA using the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, both of which represent the first previously used rockets utilized on a NASA supply mission.

That's where it landed back in June following its first launch.

It's NASA's first use of a reused Falcon and only the second of a previously flown capsule.

Equally important to SpaceX, Friday's launch was the first off pad 40 at the Air Force station since a Falcon 9 exploded five minutes before an engine test on September 1, 2016, destroying that rocket and its $200 million satellite payload and virtually wiping out the launch complex and its systems.

The Dragon spacecraft will reach International Space Station on Sunday.

Generating 1.7 million pounds of thrust, the rocket quickly accelerated, knifing through low clouds and arcing away to the northeast as it climbed directly into the plane of the space station's orbit.

The private aerospace company is salvaging as much as possible from flown rockets to drive down launch costs.

As far as re-using launch vehicles, I believe this is the first time NASA has employed a re-usable launch vehicle for an actual mission.

Packed in the capsule's pressurized compartment are almost 1,000 pounds of crew supplies, almost 2,900 pounds of science material, spacewalk equipment, space station hardware and computer components. But managers waited until SpaceX had three rocket reflights under its belt, before putting NASA's station equipment and experiments on a secondhand Falcon.

Yesterday's booster recovery was the 20th for the company.

SpaceX successfully completed its 13th cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this afternoon.

This was the first launch from the SpaceX-rented Complex 40 in more than a year.

"This is the beginning of rapid and reliable reusability", said SpaceX Manager Jessica Jensen, according to AP.

Friday's successful liftoff means SpaceX has now launched from all three of its pads - two in Florida and one in California - in the same year. "The net result is about equivalent risk".

The first stage, meanwhile, flipped around and restarted three of its nine engines to reverse course back toward the Air Force Station.

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