SpaceX Launches Dragon Supply Ship to ISS

Falcon 9 first stage descends toward its landing pad. (Screen shot from SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket roared off NASA’s historic Pad 39A on Sunday morning, marking a rebirth of a complex that once hosted the launches of Apollo moon ships and space shuttles.

The booster lifted off on time at 9:39 a.m. EST carrying a Dragon resupply ship bound for the International Space Station. The Dragon separated from second stage as planned and unfurled its two solar arrays. It will take two days to catch up to the space station.

The Falcon 9’s first stage landed safely at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. On board video showed the rocket’s engine firing as the stage touched down on its concrete landing pad.

This flight was the first from Pad 39 since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. SpaceX has a 20-year lease on the launch complex.

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SpaceX Mission Poised for Notable Achievements

Falcon 9 on Launch Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA’s first cargo resupply mission of 2017 is poised to lift off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida loaded with almost 5,500 pounds of science experiments, research equipment and supplies bound for the International Space Station and its resident astronauts.

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Falcon 9 Rolled Out to Pad 39A

SpaceX has rolled out the Falcon 9 booster to Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The booster will undergo a test of its first stage engines in preparation for a scheduled Feb. 18 launch. The rocket will carry a Dragon resupply ship bound for the International Space Station.

It will be the first launch from Pad 39A since the final space shuttle flight in 2011. SpaceX has leased the complex from NASA under a 20-year agreement.

SpaceX to Launch Dragon Supply Ship from Historic Launch Pad 39A

SpaceX’s 300-foot long processing hangar, which stands at the base of Launch Pad 39A, and the upgraded launch infrastructure will support the needs of astronauts and ground support staff who will access SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as it stands on the pad for launch to the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A will see its first flight in nearly six years in mid-February when a SpaceX Falcon 9 launches a Dragon resupply ship to the International Space Station.

The California-based company announced over the weekend that the launch of the EchoStar 23 communications satellite, set to be the first from the renovated pad, would be delayed until after the CRS-10 Dragon supply flight.

SpaceX is leasing the historic launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center under a 20-year agreement with NASA. The company has been modifying the launch complex for launches of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters.

SpaceX’s main launch complex at the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has been out of action since September when a Falcon 9 caught fire and exploded as it was being fueled for a pre-flight engine test. Repairs are still under way.

Pad 39A last saw a launch in July 2011 with the 135th and final space shuttle mission. Atlantis flew a nearly 13-day logistics flight to the space station. Prior to the start of the shuttle program in 1981, the complex hosted Saturn V launches for the Apollo program.

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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

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The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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Commercial Crew Marks Year of Progress

The astronauts who will train for the first Commercial Crew Program flight tests are Doug Hurley, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken and Sunita "Suni" Williams. (Credit: NASA)
The astronauts who will train for the first Commercial Crew Program flight tests are Doug Hurley, Eric Boe, Bob Behnken and Sunita “Suni” Williams. (Credit: NASA)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

A year after awarding landmark contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to build a new generation of human-rated space systems, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has made great strides to re-establish America’s capability to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. Both companies are constructing the infrastructure needed to safely launch and operate crew space transportation systems. They also have offered detailed refinements to their designs and begun building the test vehicles that will be put through extreme analysis before their flight test regimens begin.

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Billionaires Battle Over Launch Site

Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)
Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)

The Orlando Sentinel has an update on the battle to control mothballed space shuttle Launch Complex 39A. In a dream match up made in NewSpace heaven, the battle pits billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX against fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, whose bid is supported by United Launch Alliance (ULA), which has made billions launching U.S. defense satellites.

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