SpaceX recycles used capsule to send supplies to space station

A Nasa photo showing SpaceX's Falcon 9 lifting off with the Dragon capsule from the Kennedy Space Centre on Saturday. Reusability is now seen as the key to affordable space missions.
A Nasa photo showing SpaceX's Falcon 9 lifting off with the Dragon capsule from the Kennedy Space Centre on Saturday. Reusability is now seen as the key to affordable space missions.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

NEW YORK • Mr Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies took another step in its push to drive down space-flight costs, launching a resupply mission to the International Space Station using a pre-flown capsule.

The Dragon capsule, which is carrying almost 2,720kg of supplies and payloads to the orbiting lab, was successfully launched at 5.07pm on Saturday (5.07am yesterday Singapore time) from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The Dragon spacecraft, propelled by a Falcon 9 rocket, had previously supplied the space station in September 2014.

The mission brings Mr Musk one step closer to his goal of recovering, refurbishing and reusing pre-flown spacecraft. Once derided as a crazy idea, reusability is now seen as the key to affordable space missions - and eventually, Mr Musk hopes, the human colonisation of Mars.

"Dragon confirmed in good orbit," SpaceX said on Twitter 11 minutes after the launch.

The capsule will arrive at the space station in three days, where crew members will use the station's 17.6m robotic arm to reach out and capture it, the company said ahead of the launch. The launch had originally been planned for June 1 but was delayed due to lightning.

After take-off, the rocket's first stage arrived safely back on land, in the fifth such instance. The company reflew a previously used rocket for the first time in March.

Saturday's launch marked SpaceX's seventh completed mission this year and its 11th operational cargo resupply mission to the space station.

SpaceX has contracts with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration valued at US$4.2 billion (S$5.8 billion). The company also has pacts for US military launches of satellites, a market estimated to be valued at about US$70 billion through 2030.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'SpaceX recycles used capsule to send supplies to space station'. Print Edition | Subscribe