US space company SpaceX successfully launched non-inhabited Dragon rocket aboard its Falcon 9 rocket for a new supply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
This is the first Dragon flight to the ISS since a pitcher accident last September. Falcon 9 pulled out of the 39A range at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as expected in a very cloudy sky at 14:38 GMT (9:38 AM local time).
Dragon separated from the second stage less than ten minutes after takeoff to begin his chase to the orbital outpost that it should reach on February 22, SpaceX said. This launch is the first launch since 2011 from the historic NASA 39A firing range from where the Apollo missions to the Moon were launched in the 1960s and 1970s and the space shuttle between 1981 and 2011.
The shooting was originally scheduled for Saturday but was canceled 13 seconds before the engines fired due to a technical anomaly whose origin was determined Saturday night. Dragon must deliver more than 2.2 tons of food and equipment for scientific experiments under a contract with NASA. This is one tenth of these missions.
Less than ten minutes after the launch, SpaceX once again succeeded in bringing down the first stage of the launcher to have it gently placed on the ground not far from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in the southeastern United States.
“Falcon landed again,” SpaceX spokeswoman said on the internet, triggering a thunderous clapping of applause and shouting at the company’s control center in Hawthorne, California.
It is the seventh success of this delicate maneuver that should reduce the costs of putting into orbit by reusing this most expensive part of the rocket. The 41-meter-high first floor has already landed four times on a barge at sea and three times on dry land.
SpaceX has suffered two costly accidents in the last two years, after a long period of success since its creation by Elon Musk in 2002. In September 2016, the launcher exploded on the Cape Canaveral launch pad during a static engine test, Destroying an Israeli communications satellite of $200 million.
Falcon has already made a flight since this setback, successfully launching on January 14 ten small communications satellites of the company Iridium from the Vandenberg military base in California.
SpaceX is also working on the development of a Dragon version capable of transporting astronauts as part of a contract with NASA that has also retained Boeing, which is building another passenger ship. SpaceX said on Friday that the first flight of his manned spacecraft will take place in 2018.
However, the federal agency that audits federal spending and is dependent on the Congress (GAO) is concerned in a recent report of a possible postponement until 2019 of the start of SpaceX and Boeing manned flights due to Delays and cuts in the budget allocated to the program.
The GAO also points out that Nasa’s contract with the Russian space agency to transport American astronauts to the ISS aboard the Soyuz spacecraft expires in 2019. SpaceX’s executive director Gwynne Shotwell said “Very confident” Friday that the Dragon V2 spacecraft would begin transporting astronauts into space in 2018.