An overnight launch designed to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) crew has culminated in a fifth successful landing for SpaceX’s reusable two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, according to CBS News and Space.com reports published early Monday morning.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 12:45 am EDT on Monday, carrying a docking mechanism needed for new US crew capsules in development and nearly 5,000 pounds of equipment and supplies to the crew of the orbiting research facility.
The first stage of the rocket separated less than three minutes after launch and completed a series of engine burns to return to Cape Canaveral. At 12:53 am, it completed a soft landing only a few miles south of its launch pad while SpaceX’s Dragon capsule continued towards the ISS.
This marks the fifth time that the California-based aerospace company founded and owned by Elon Musk has been able to successfully launch and land a reusable rocket. The first of those successes came following a commercial satellite launch in December 2015. It was followed by a second landing in April and two others in May, all involving a floating at-sea platform.
“We just completed the post-landing inspection and all systems look good. Ready to fly again,” Musk tweeted following the successful launch-and-landing. During a press conference held after the liftoff, Joel Montalbano, NASA’s deputy manager of ISS utilization, called it “a great day for SpaceX, a great day for NASA. The launch campaign was just fantastic to watch.”
Out on LZ-1. We just completed the post-landing inspection and all systems look good. Ready to fly again. pic.twitter.com/1OfA8h7Vrf
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 18, 2016
Commercial Crew capsule adapter among cargo en route to ISS
Meanwhile, the crew onboard the space station is anticipating the arrival of the Dragon capsule on Wednesday, which in addition to much-needed supplies contains materials essential to many of the 250-plus investigations scheduled to begin over the next several months, NASA said.
One of those projects was created by high school students in Colorado and will study how silver crystals can forms larger structures in space because they do not collapse under their own weight in the microgravity environment. Another experiment will examine micro-sized structures, to see how they form themselves into different shapes in structures without gravity’s influence.
The capsule will also deliver TangoLab-1, a rack that was developed by Kentucky-based Space Tango and which will house up to 24 experiments at any given time, as well as the international docking adapter (IDA), a ring that weighs more than 1,000 pounds and will serve as a connection point for future Boeing and SpaceX capsules currently being developed as part of the US space agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
“Engineered to an international docking standard and with numerous sensors and instruments attached, the adapter is designed to work with automated guidance systems on arriving spacecraft so they can safely dock to the station with little, if any, involvement from the crew in the spacecraft,” said NASA. The adapter is scheduled to be installed next month.
Image credit: SpaceX