The International Space Station (ISS) is set to receive some very historic cargo, with SpaceX launching the first ever private rocket from NASA’s launch facilities in Cape Canaveral, Florida. True to its’ past achievements, SpaceX was also able to guide and land its’ booster nearby, which added yet another success to the day’s action.
Setting off just past 9:30 AM EST on Sunday, from the same launch pad that had seen lift-offs from the Apollo missions, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the company’s Dragon Cargo Capsule, made a beeline for the ISS, where international astronauts are waiting to retrieve its cargo. According to NASA officials, this mission carries approximately 2,500 kgs of scientific equipment set to help enhance the work being done aboard the space station.
This marks the first time in NASA history that a private company has successfully launched a rocket from their facilities bound for the ISS, and SpaceX has been basking in the resounding success of their mission. Despite an earlier launch attempt being cancelled just 13 seconds prior to lift-off, due to an unexpected reading from the rocket’s second stage, nothing was able to stop the Falcon 9 from lifting off and eventually returning back home.
This was SpaceX’s eighth successful rocket launch and return, putting more credence into the company’s plans to develop reusable rockets that could revolutionize the spaceflight and exploration industry. Although SpaceX has had some incredible triumphs, they have also had some mishaps, like the failed September 2016 launch that saw another Falcon 9 rocket explode prior to lift-off, destroying its’ payload, a $200 million AMOS-6 satellite, in the process. This latest launch marks their second since that incident.
Astronauts aboard the ISS are expecting to receive their cargo on February 21, just two days after the launch, with France’s Thomas Pesquet and the US’ Shane Kimbrough in charge of retrieving the capsule. Once docked and unloaded, the team will send the Dragon back to Earth, filled with an estimated 2,300 kgs in cargo from the ISS, which includes scientific data, unused modules and other non-essential equipment.