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.
The Federal Communications Commission has granted a request by SpaceX to begin launching spacecraft for the company’s Starlink broadband network to a lower orbit than originally planned, overruling protests by competitors and clearing a major regulatory hurdle before the launch of the first batch of Internet satellites from Cape Canaveral in May.
A SpaceX Dragon supply ship packed with nearly three tons of experiments, crew provisions and supplies will remain on the ground until at least Friday morning to allow more time for NASA flight controllers to troubleshoot a problem with an electrical distribution unit on the International Space Station.
A week after a test-firing of SpaceX’s new crew capsule went awry, SpaceX successfully completed a hold-down firing of its next Falcon 9 launcher Saturday morning at Cape Canaveral in preparation for a predawn liftoff Wednesday carrying several tons of food, supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.