The California-based SpaceX company headed by Internet tycoon Elon Musk aims to lower the cost of spaceflight by reusing costly rocket components. The same booster was used to loft the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-11) mission in June.
The Dragon capsule, also reused from a previous mission, deployed from the Falcon 9's upper stage around 10 minutes after liftoff.
This was SpaceX's fourth launch with a used booster and the second time with a used Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX was aiming to launch on December 12th, but wound up pushing back until today.
The Dragon cargo ship previously flew to the ISS in 2015.
I suppose you could argue that the Space Shuttles did this first, but not all of the Shuttle Launch System was reused-the orbiters were, of course, and the solid fuel rockets were re-furbished and re-used, but that big orange fuel tank at the center of the stack wasn't. This event makes SpaceX the first entity to build, launch, land and reuse their own rocket boosters, and cargo capsules together.
Six people are now on board the Space Station, three NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and one Italian astronaut.
SpaceX has made major strides in its rocket reusability program this year, re-flying four recovered Falcon 9 first stages. However, there is something very important about this most recent flight.
"The net result is about equivalent risk", he told reporters Monday.
The recycled spaceship blasted off on Friday carrying 4,800 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of food, supplies and experiments - including one to study thyroid cancer and another to grow barley in space. Not only did the Falcon 9 successfully deliver the Dragon to orbit, it came back down to Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
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