SpaceX Launches 10th Cargo Mission to ISS, Lands First Stage Back on Land
The second time was the charm for Space X with the launch of its 10th operational cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) taking place on time at 9:39 am ET this morning. The launch was scrubbed 13 seconds before liftoff yesterday, but all went well today. The Falcon 9 rocket's first stage then returned to Earth, landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida.
The was SpaceX's first launch from NASA's Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center, which is adjacent to CCAFS. LC-39A was the site of launches of Apollo missions to the Moon and many space shuttle launches. NASA has two launch complexes -- 39A and 39B -- but only needs one for its future missions. It retained 39B, but now leases 39A to SpaceX.
The SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services 10 (SpaceX CRS-10 or SpX-10) launch was scrubbed yesterday because of concerns about the Thrust Vector Control system on the rocket's second stage, but the second stage worked perfectly today delivering the Dragon spacecraft into the correct orbit. Dragon is packed with 5,489 pounds of supplies and equipment for the ISS crew. A series of maneuvers will now take place to position Dragon next to the ISS so astronauts can use the robotic Canadarm2 to reach out and grab it so it can be berthed to an ISS docking port. That is scheduled for Wednesday, February 22, at approximately 6:00 am ET (NASA TV will provide live coverage).
SpaceX designed the Falcon 9 first stage to be reusable and once it separates from the second stage fires its engines to return to Earth. Depending on the rocket's trajectory and how much fuel remains, it lands on an autonomous drone ship at sea or back at CCAFS. Today it landed at CCAFS 8 minutes after liftoff. This is the third land landing of a 1st stage.
SpaceX later posted a video of the landing taken by an airborne drone.
The first use of one of these recovered first stages will take place next month with the launch of the SES-10 commercial communications satellite.
Note: Updated with the link to the SpaceX landing video.
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