With a thundering, sky-lighting predawn blastoff from Cape Canaveral, a Falcon 9 rocket fired into orbit early Saturday with a Dragon cargo capsule in pursuit of the International Space Station. Minutes later, the rocket’s first stage booster fell from the sky and executed a pinpoint propulsive landing just offshore, setting the stage for another resupply mission for NASA this summer using the same vehicle.
While recovery teams continue combing through the test site at Cape Canaveral where SpaceX’s first space-worthy Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed in an explosive accident last month, engineers a few miles away are pressing ahead with the company’s 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station set for launch early Friday.
SpaceX is likely to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket set for launch April 30 on a drone ship just off the coast of Cape Canaveral, not at the company’s onshore recovery site as originally planned, after a ground test of the company’s Crew Dragon capsule at the landing pad ended in an explosion Saturday.
Singed and blackened from three fiery trips to the edge of space and back, a Falcon 9 rocket returned to Cape Canaveral on Sunday after a mission last that week carried the Israeli Beresheet moon lander into orbit, ready for inspections before attempting a fourth — and likely final — launch this spring.