SpaceX launches entirely reused Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo ship for the first time
Image credit: Diomedia
SpaceX will launch a Dragon cargo ship and a Falcon 9 booster rocket that have both been used in previous missions and recovered after landing back on Earth intact.
The launch will mark the fourth time that the Elon Musk-founded company has sent a recovered Falcon 9 rocket into space, but only the second time that it has re-launched one of its Dragon capsules.
It will be the first time that the company has launched both components on a single mission and the closest SpaceX will have come to fully reusable rockets.
The mission is a critical test of the company’s rocket capabilities; it was founded on the idea that reusable rockets will dramatically lower the cost of moving materials and people between the Earth and space.
The Dragon capsule will be carrying approximately 2200kgs worth of cargo for the International Space Station (ISS).
This includes nearly 450kgs of crew supplies and almost 1300kgs of science material, spacewalk equipment, space station hardware and computer components.
It is expected to spend around a month docked at the ISS before returning back to Earth with return cargo.
The mission is being funded by Nasa and the agency’s space station program manager Kirk Shireman said it has conducted an extensive review into the reused rocket and concluded that it is just as safe as a new one.
“We’re very comfortable that the risk posture on this vehicle is not significantly greater than a new booster. Some risks are actually less on a reflown booster and some risks are a little greater. The net result is about equivalent risk,” he said to reporters.
Although the rocket was originally planned to launch today, the company said on its Twitter feed that this has been delayed until tomorrow in order “to allow for additional time for pre-launch ground systems check”.
SpaceX is gaining significant interest in the space sector, tomorrow’s launch will mark the company’s seventeenth this year.
It recently announced plans to miniaturise its rockets in order to lower costs and give it next-generation capabilities that could be used to travel to the Moon, Mars or around the Earth.
Last month, the UK government approved the “Space Industry Bill” which aims to create a regulatory framework to allow commercial spaceflight activities to be carried out from UK launch sites.