NASA Cargo Mission Completed By Using SpaceX’s Used Falcon 9 Rocket

SpaceX marched another step closer to its aim of achieving complete reusability of rockets after the company recently launched and landed a used rocket as part of a delivery mission for NASA.

SpaceX’s robotic Dragon capsule was sent on a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with the help of the company’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket.

The orbiting lab was visited by this Dragon in April 2015 and in June 2017, a different Dragon was launched towards the ISS by the Falcon 9 first stage. This is the first time that SpaceX has managed to launch a pre-flown spacecraft on a pre-flown rocket.

NASA officials said that the decision to use a pre-flown booster was taken after careful consideration and extensive review of the associated risks.

“We’re very comfortable that the risk posture on this vehicle is not significantly greater than [on] a new booster,” Kirk Shireman, NASA’s ISS program manager, said. “We think of it as equivalent risk.”

It was less than 10 minutes since liftoff that the Falcon 9 first stage returned back for a pinpoint touchdown which was the second for the rocket. SpaceX has managed to re-fly landed boosters four time till now and has conducted 20 first-stage landings during orbital flights.

For SpaceX and its billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk, the development of completely and rapidly reusable spaceflight systems is a key priority area and these type of activities would only help the company achieve that aim.

“In the long run, reusability is going to significantly reduce the cost of access to space, and that’s what’s going to be required to send future generations to explore the universe,” SpaceX’s Dragon mission manager Jessica Jensen said during Monday’s briefing.

“We want to be able to send thousands of people into space, not just tens,” Jensen added. “Reusability is a very key part of that, and we’re excited, because tomorrow is just one step closer to that.”

The Dragon was continued to be powered to orbit by the second stage of Falcon 9 while the first landed back on Earth. The payload carried on Dragon contains 4,800 lbs. (2,180 kilograms) of scientific hardware and other supplies.

Launching of astronauts and supplies into space on private space taxis and cargo ships is the aim of serval companies including the spaceflight company SpaceX.

“This’ll be the first time that we’ve leveraged the space environment to manufacture a product in space that, because it was manufactured there, it’s got these amazing properties that are actually useful and commercially viable — we hope — down on the ground,” Made In Space CEO Andrew Rush said in a different pre-launch briefing.

“I cannot confirm nor deny the presence of Christmas presents,” Shireman said. “There are crew care packages, and as program manager I don’t have to go inspect all those. So it wouldn’t surprise me, but I can’t say for certain.”

(Adapted from http://www.space.com)

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