SpaceX has launched 5,500 pounds of cargo toward the International Space Station, its first such mission since last summer.
The rocket and its Dragon cargo craft lifted off at 9:39 a.m. EST Feb. 19 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. A day earlier, concern over the position of a second-stage engine nozzle prompted the launch to be scrubbed.
Ten minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s reusable first stage was returned to a landing pad located near the launch site on the air base.
The Dragon is carrying crew supplies, scientific research and hardware to crew of the orbiting research lab. The craft is expected to dock at ISS on Feb. 22, when astronauts Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency will use a robotic arm to capture the Dragon.
A range of research projects set to use the gear include an experiment involving students at Morehead State University in Kentucky and their evaluation of smooth muscle cells to test, and Merck Research Laboratories’ tests of antibodies growth in a micro-gravity experiment that’s hoped will shed like on disease treatments.
The launch was the 10th SpaceX mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract and the first since a Sept. 1 launch pad explosion put SpaceX in flight hiatus. It also holds a contract to begin shuttling NASA astronauts to the ISS, perhaps as early as 2018.
During the next month, ISS crew will unload the Dragon, reload it with cargo for a return trip to Earth in late March, when it is slated to splash down in the Pacific Ocean near the Baja California peninsula of Mexico.