A SpaceX cargo craft is soaring toward the International Space Station, loaded with almost 3 tons of crew supplies and scientific research materials.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and its Dragon cargo crafted lifted off at 5:07 p.m. EDT June 3 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket’s reusable booster stage was returned to a landing pad near the launch site about 10 minutes after lift-off.
The launch had been scheduled for June 1 until inclement weather forced a scrub. The Dragon is expected to dock at the ISS on June 5.
The materials being delivered will be used in scientific experiments to be conducted on the orbiting space lab, using equipment the Dragon will deliver. Those include the measuring of neutron stars and testing of technology that uses pulsars as navigation beacons.
Additionally, there will be a test of a compact and more flexible solar panel that rolls open in space for deployment and retraction. The Dragon also will deliver an Earth-viewing imaging platform created by Teledyne Brown Engineering of Huntsville, Ala., that will house high-resolution digital cameras and hyperspectral imagers.
There also are 40 lab mice and 400 fruit flies hitching a ride on the Dragon, drafted into scientific service by NASA.
The Dragon being used in the mission has been refurbished from two previous cargo shuttles. The old craft was stripped down after its last use in 2014 and many of its parts were replaced.
The mission is the 11th ISS cargo shuttle for SpaceX. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company also holds a NASA contract to begin astronaut shuttles to the space station eventually.
The latest cargo launch and booster landings were followed on Web-delivered video by SpaceX employees gathered at its headquarters. Jubilant cheers could be heard as the spacecraft reached key stage-separation and orbital milestones.
“Another truly amazing landing of the first stage,” a SpaceX commentator enthused as the landing operation’s dramatic images were displayed.
Two minutes later, the Dragon was confirmed as reaching a “good orbit.”