The launch was initially set for last Friday but was delayed, as SpaceX said it was "taking additional time for the team to conduct full inspections and cleanings due to the detection of particles in the second stage fuel system".
The Falcon 9 rocket took flight at 10:36 a.m. ET, carrying an uncrewed Dragon capsule loaded down with supplies and experiments to the International Space Station for NASA. NASA refurbished the Gemini 2 capsule, which was launched for a short mission in 1965, and re-used it as for a test mission for the Air Force's experimental (and aborted) Manned Orbital Laboratory project.
As far as re-using launch vehicles, I believe this is the first time NASA has employed a re-usable launch vehicle for an actual mission. The company hinges its success on its ability to rapidly reuse rockets and spacecraft they bring back after multiple missions to orbit. SpaceX ultimately wants to launch the Falcon Heavy from 39A, too, but the pad needed some modifications first in order to accommodate the larger rocket.
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Friday's launch comes after two previous attempts earlier this week were scrubbed.
The Dragon reaches the space station Sunday.
Friday's booster recovery was the 20th for the company. And as per usual, SpaceX plans to land this Falcon 9 after take off at the company's ground-based landing site, Landing Zone 1.
NASA's ISS program manager Kirk Shireman said rocket experts from around the agency had reviewed safety for the mission.
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"This was a fantastic way to end the year for SpaceX East Coast launches", Jensen told reporters.
It has broken new ground in aeronautics by recycling its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules. The capsule last visited the 250-mile-high outpost in 2015. When SLC-40 went offline a year ago, SpaceX had to rely on its other pad at the Cape, a site called LC-39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, to launch all of its Florida missions.
The commercial cargo craft is scheduled to depart the station in mid-January and splash down in the Pacific Ocean with research specimens for analysis by scientists around the world.
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