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SpaceX launches Dragon spacecraft to resupply ISS

SpaceX launches Dragon spacecraft to resupply ISS

The company has already landed Falcon 9 first stages on 11 separate occasions - including Saturday, when the booster came back to Earth for a pinpoint touchdown at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX plans to return the actual rocket, called Falcon 9, back to Cape Canaveral after it detaches from the capsule (Dragon). More than 2,000 kilograms of that is scientific hardware, including experiments to be conducted inside the station as well as astrophysics, earth science and space technology experiments to be mounted on the station's exterior. Lowering itself perfectly onto the landing platform, a SpaceX live stream provided an epic view of the Falcon's descent.

MARS has completed post-launch refurbishment of Pad-0A following the October 2016 mission and stands ready to support NASA's cargo resupply launches with the Antares rocket and Cygnus Spacecraft.

In the meantime after separation performed at 21:10 UTC, first stage of Falcon-9FT performed flip maneuver and begun its flight to Earth.

Reusing a spacecraft isn't new. Several of its Falcon 9 rockets have returned upright to platforms floating in the ocean. SpaceX's business strategy is predicated on reducing the cost of space travel by landing and reusing its rockets, something experts have long questioned. "We're evaluating every aspect of it very carefully, and there is no schedule yet when we might go down that path".

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The Dragon's pressurized compartment, the section accessible to the station's crew, is packed with some 3,700 pounds of equipment and supplies, much of it devoted to medical and biological research.

It's now scheduled to dock Monday morning. SpaceX now operates the launch complex under a 20-year lease with NASA. Dragon capsules are being developed to carry astronauts to the space station as early as next year; it's too soon to say whether those, too, will be recycled, he said.

The launch is set for 5:07 pm EST from the historic Launch Pad 39-A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

This Dragon delivered SpaceX's CRS-4 mission to the ISS in 2014.

Under the agreement, NanoRacks will deliver the device to the USA side of the space station and astronauts there will conduct studies using the device in about two weeks, data from which will be sent back to the Chinese researchers. Unlike the Dragon, the Cygnus is not created to survive re-entry and it will burn up when it falls back into the atmosphere.

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