SpaceX launches 1st recycled cargo ship

SpaceX yesterday launched its first recycled Dragon capsule with the Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station (ISS).

The private company launched yet another Falcon 9 rocket to space loaded down with an uncrewed Dragon capsule.

SpaceX enjoys a first for what is essentially a used-vehicle, in this case a Dragon rocket that has previously flown, and today has made history by once again embarking on a resupply mission to the ISS.

Space station program manager at the Johnson Space Center in Houston Kirk Shireman said, "Supporting the Dragon re-flight is a really, really important step".

SpaceX on Saturday launched a shipment of supplies for the astronauts living at the International Space Station, carrying for the first time an experiment independently designed by China.

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of flight reusability at SpaceX, said CRS-11 was the company's seventh launch this year and that SpaceX will use a "refurbished first stage" for the next launch.

The Falcon 9's first stage booster settled to a propulsive landing at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station around seven-and-a-half minutes after launch, as the rocket's upper stage entered orbit with its supply payload. A launch attempt two days earlier was scrubbed because of weather. One minute later, the CRS-11 Dragon capsule separated and began the process of deploying its solar panels.

SpaceX installed a new heat shield and parachutes, among a few other things, for the Dragon's trip back to Earth at flight's end.

"Reusing rockets and spacecraft is core to SpaceX's mission of bringing down the cost of space travel".

The reused Dragon is expected to reach the orbiting lab on Monday.

Scientists hope to one day use the data from NICER to create a galactic Global Positioning System, enabling future spacecraft and explorers to navigate the cosmos. If all goes well, a giant robotic arm attached to the space station will swing out to capture the Dragon as it flies by. Every dollar counts for SpaceX as they try to pay off the billion dollars they spent developing "flight-proven" technology. A used Falcon 9 first stage will also help loft the BulgariaSat 1 communications satellite on June 15, company representatives have said. It returned to Kennedy Space Center with a stellar vertical touchdown. SpaceX hopes to launch astronauts sometime next year. It will be the first returning craft since NASA's now-retired shuttles.

The Dragon is the only supply ship capable of surviving re-entry; all the others burn up in the atmosphere. It remained in space at the ISS for almost a month before returning to Earth and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

  • Salvatore Jensen