Weve run out of superlatives to describe what SpaceX is doing to the rocket launch industry at the moment, so well just get right to it. SpaceX has launched and landed a rocket for the fifth time, taking itsninthscheduled NASA cargo mission (CRS-9) to the International Space Station (ISS) in the process.
The Falcon 9 rocket took off at 12:45am EDT (5:45am BST) from Cape Canaveral in Florida. On board was a Dragon spacecraft, on its way to dock with the ISS on Wednesday, carrying 2,270 kilograms (5,000 pounds) of cargo for the six-person crew on the station. It is also transporting a new international docking adapter (IDA), which will be used by future manned spacecraft, Boeings CST-100 Starliner and SpaceXs own Crew Dragon, to dock to the ISS.
Check out a replay of the event above. Launch is at the 16:55 mark, and landing is at 25 minutes. SpaceX
Among the interesting science experiments on board Dragon is one that will study microbes from the Chernobyl disaster in microgravity. These samples of Chernobyl fungi are interesting because they grow towards radiation at the Chernobyl site, so scientists want to understand how they are able to survive in such an environment.
Above, the moment of launch. SpaceX
Of course, as with many SpaceX launches now, the most exciting moment actually came about seven minutes after lift-off. This was when the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth and, for the first time this year, successfully landed back on the ground. This is the first ground landing SpaceX has attempted since in December 2015, with the six landing attempts since all being on a floating barge in the sea.
Out on LZ-1 [Landing Zone 1], Elon Musk tweeted. We just completed the post-landing inspection and all systems look good. Ready to fly again.
Here you can see the moment the rocket landed
So, whats SpaceX doing with all these landed rockets? Well, the stage from the first successful landing is being transported to SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, as a museum piece, a testament to the first landing. The others are being stored with a view to reusing them on future launches, potentially as early as August this year.