SpaceX launches cargo to space station, lands rocket on solid ground
The Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon spacecraft sitting on the top, blasted off from a launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 12:31 p.m. EDT (1631 GMT), according to a live webcast by the U.S. space agency NASA.
About eight minutes later, SpaceX successfully landed the rocket's first stage at the company's Landing Zone 1, just south of the launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, as part of its effort to develop fully reusable rockets.
Previously, SpaceX has successfully recovered 13 first stages, five on land and eight at sea.
Monday's flight was the 12th of up to 20 missions to the space station that SpaceX will fly for NASA under a multi-year commercial resupply services (CRS) contract.
And it also marked the last time SpaceX launches a brand-new Dragon 1 vehicle and the remaining CRS missions will fly only reused ones, an official from SpaceX said at a pre-launched news conference on Sunday.
A variant of the Dragon spacecraft, called Dragon 2, is currying being developed for U.S.-based crew transport to and from the space station, the company said.
For this mission, Dragon was filled with over 6,400 pounds (2,900 kilograms) of supplies and payloads, including critical materials to directly support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during the next six months. ■