SpaceX Launches First Recycled Cargo Ship to the International Space Station

0
75
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon spacecraft onboard, launches from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Saturday, June 3, 2017. Dragon is carrying almost 6,000 pounds of science research, crew supplies and hardware to the International Space Station in support of the Expedition 52 and 53 crew members. The unpressurized trunk of the spacecraft also will transport solar panels, tools for Earth-observation and equipment to study neutron stars. This will be the 100th launch, and sixth SpaceX launch, from this pad. Previous launches include 11 Apollo flights, the launch of the unmanned Skylab in 1973, 82 shuttle flights and five SpaceX launches. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls). VOA
  • This Dragon capsule, meanwhile, came back for take two following a few modifications and much testing
  • The plan is to launch the booster again, instead of junking it in the ocean as so many other rocket makers do
  • SpaceX said savings are minimal because of all the inspections and tests performed on the already flown parts

SpaceX launched its first recycled cargo ship to the International Space Station on Saturday, another milestone in its bid to drive down flight costs.

After a two-day delay caused by thunderstorms, the unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off carrying a Dragon capsule that made a station delivery nearly three years ago. When this refurbished Dragon reaches the orbiting lab on Monday, it will be the first returning craft since NASA’s now-retired shuttles.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

The first-stage booster flown Saturday afternoon was brand-new, and as is now the custom, returned to Cape Canaveral following liftoff for a successful vertical touchdown. “The Falcon has landed,” SpaceX Mission Control declared from company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and a cheer went up.

Reusable booster

The plan is to launch the booster again, instead of junking it in the ocean as so many other rocket makers do. Just two months ago, SpaceX launched its first recycled booster on a satellite mission. Another flight featuring a reused booster is coming up later this month.

This Dragon capsule, meanwhile, came back for take two following a few modifications and much testing. Shortly before liftoff, a SpaceX vice president, Hans Koenigsmann, called the Dragon reflight “a pretty big deal.”

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

It’s all part of the company’s quest, Koenigsmann said, to lower the cost of access to space through reusability.

FILE - A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule approaches the International Space Station prior to installation in this NASA picture taken April 10, 2016.
FILE – A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule approaches the International Space Station prior to installation in this NASA picture taken April 10, 2016. VOA

The Dragon soaring Saturday has the same hull and most of the same parts from its 2014 flight. SpaceX installed a new heat shield and parachutes, among a few other things, for the trip back to Earth at flight’s end. The Dragon is the only supply ship capable of surviving re-entry; all the others burn up in the atmosphere. NASA’s other supplier, Orbital ATK, will see its cargo carrier depart the 250-mile-high complex on Sunday, six weeks after arriving.

Besides the usual supplies, the 6,000-pound shipment includes mice and flies for research, a new kind of roll-up solar panel and a neutron star detector.

Similar risk

For now, SpaceX said savings are minimal because of all the inspections and tests performed on the already flown parts. NASA’s space station program manager, Kirk Shireman, told reporters earlier in the week that SpaceX did a thorough job recertifying the Dragon and that the risk is not substantially more than if this were a capsule straight off the factory floor. He said the entire industry is interested in “this whole notion of reuse,” first realized with the space shuttles.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

It was the 100th launch from NASA’s hallowed Launch Complex 39A, the departure point for the Apollo moon shots as well as dozens of shuttle missions, including the last one in 2011. SpaceX now leases the pad from NASA; the company’s first launch from there was in February.

SpaceX has been hauling station supplies for NASA for five years, both up and down. This is the company’s 11th mission under a NASA contract. The company’s next step is to deliver astronauts using modified Dragons. That could occur as early as next year.

Until SpaceX and Boeing start transporting crews, astronauts will continue to ride Russian rockets. On Friday, a Russian and Frenchman returned from the space station in their Soyuz capsule, leaving two Americans and a Russian behind. The station was zooming over Oman in the Persian Gulf when the Falcon took flight. (VOA)