SpaceX launches station supplies, nails 50th rocket landing

Published March 7, 2020
In a time exposure, a SpaceX Falcon is launched from Cape Canavera on March 6. — AP
In a time exposure, a SpaceX Falcon is launched from Cape Canavera on March 6. — AP

SpaceX successfully launched another load of station supplies for NASA late Friday night and nailed its fiftieth rocket landing.

The Falcon rocket blasted off with 1,950 kilogrammes of equipment and experiments for the International Space Station. Just minutes later, the spent first-stage booster made a dramatic midnight landing back at Cape Canaveral, its return accompanied by sonic booms.

“And the Falcon has landed for the 50th time in SpaceX history,” SpaceX engineer Jessica Anderson announced amid cheers at Mission Control. "What an amazing live view all the way to touchdown."

The Dragon capsule, meanwhile, hurtled toward a Monday rendezvous with the space station.

It's the twentieth station delivery for SpaceX, which has launched nearly 45,360 kilogrammes of goods to the orbiting outpost and returned nearly that much back to Earth since it began shipments in 2012. Northrop Grumman is NASA's other commercial shipper.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said it was the windiest conditions ever 40 km/h to 48 km/h for a booster landing at Cape Canaveral, but he wanted to push the envelope. The landing was the fiftieth successful touchdown of a SpaceX booster following liftoff, either on land or at sea.

"Envelope expanded," Musk tweeted following touchdown.

The company's first booster landing was in 2015, intended as a cost-saving, rocket-recycling move. Both the latest booster and Dragon capsule were recycled from previous flights.

Among the science experiments flying: an analysis of running shoe cushioning in weightlessness by Adidas, a water droplet study by Delta Faucet Co. striving for better shower head water conservation, 3D models of heart and intestinal tissue, and 320 snippets of grape vines by Space Cargo Unlimited, the same Luxembourg startup that sent 12 bottles of red wine to the space station last November for a year of high-altitude aging.

The Dragon also contained treats for the two Americans and one Russian at the space station: grapefruit, oranges, apples, tomatoes, Skittles, Hot Tamales and Reese's Pieces.

As for packing the capsule for launch, no extra precautions were taken because of the global coronavirus outbreak, according to NASA.

The usual stringent precautions were taken to avoid passing along any germs or diseases to the space station crew. The doctor-approved procedures have proven effective in the past, officials noted.

This is the last of SpaceX's original Dragon cargo capsules. Going forward, the company will launch supplies in second generation Dragons, roomier and more elaborate versions built for crews.

The company aims to launch NASA astronauts this spring. SpaceX also teaming up with other companies to fly tourists and private researchers to the space station, as well as high solo orbits in the next couple years.

Opinion

Editorial

Militancy redux
12 Aug, 2022

Militancy redux

THE ghosts of the past are coming back to haunt the residents of Swat Valley in the Malakand Division. Several ...
Distorting history
12 Aug, 2022

Distorting history

WHEN history is co-opted by ideologically overzealous elements, expect the facts to die a quick death, and...
Dengue danger
12 Aug, 2022

Dengue danger

WITH rains continuing across most of the country, a dengue outbreak can quickly become a major headache for health...
Khorasani’s killing
11 Aug, 2022

Khorasani’s killing

OMAR Khalid Khorasani, a dreaded TTP ‘commander’, lived by the sword and very much died by the sword. But beyond...
Gross overreaction
Updated 11 Aug, 2022

Gross overreaction

The government has already done considerable damage to itself with its indelicate handling of the situation.
Dadu deaths
11 Aug, 2022

Dadu deaths

DISEASES that are usually mild and preventable in countries with developed healthcare systems often prove to be...