SpaceX Launches Cargo Ship to Space Station, Misses Rocket Landing

SpaceX  Flickr The booster or first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket attempting to land

The mission was also historic because it involved a booster making its third successful landing. Among these were materials that are critical to supporting the ongoing research and investigations aboard the ISS.

Musk says the new "block 5" Falcon 9 stages are designed fly dozens of times with minimal refurbishment between launchings, a key element in the company's drive to lower launch costs by recovering and re-flying recovered stages. At 10:26 am PST (01:26 pm EST), SpaceX announced "Second stage engine burn complete".

SpaceX launched its unmanned Dragon cargo ship to the worldwide space station on Thursday but failed to successfully land its booster afterward as the tall portion of the rocket missed its goal of securing an upright landing on solid ground at Cape Canaveral's Landing Zone 1. "Dragon confirmed in good orbit", followed shortly thereafter by confirmation that its solar arrays had deployed. Before this 12 times, SpaceX has successfully boosted the booster to the ground.

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The rocket's first stage booster-the large bottom half of the rocket that gets the craft into space-typically lands back on a platform either on land or at sea.

The grid fins are used to stabilize the booster, which managed to stabilize at the last minute, enabling the rocket to make a gentle landing in the Atlantic Ocean. This landing, while not 100% successful, was smooth enough that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the company may re-use the rocket for an internal mission. In addition, this should not distract from the fact that the launch itself went by the numbers. The Dragon should deliver its 2.5 ton payload to the International Space Station Saturday. Coverage will begin at about 02:00 a.m. PST (0:500 a.m. EST) with the capture expected to happen about 1 hour later.

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