Liftoff of a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket is set for this week from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the first time SpaceX has reused one of its first stage boosters on a second mission. The flight was set for takeoff Wednesday, but the launch of the SES 10 communications satellite was delayed to Thursday after launch preps ran behind schedule.
The head of the launch enterprise directorate at the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Claire Leon, spoke with reporters March 15 about the military’s award of a GPS launch contract to SpaceX, and she discussed plans for more head-to-head launch contract competitions in the coming months.
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft ended a four-week mission Sunday with a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, returning from the International Space Station with more than 3,600 pounds of cargo, blood and urine samples, and specimens from a rodent research experiment aimed at helping patients with catastrophic bone injuries and osteoporosis.
After 24 days at the International Space Station, SpaceX’s Dragon supply ship came back to Earth on Sunday with more than 5,400 pounds of cargo, human and animal research specimens, and other gear tagged for the trip home. Release from the station’s robotic arm occurred at 5:11 a.m. EDT (0911 GMT), and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean was a few minutes before 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT).
The U.S. Air Force this week awarded SpaceX a contract to launch a Global Positioning System satellite in early 2019, concluding the second of as many as 15 competitions the military plans to run over the next year to pit SpaceX against United Launch Alliance for rights to lift defense and intelligence-gathering payloads into orbit.