For the first time, SpaceX is poised to launch both a rocket and a cargo ship that have flown before, a step forward in the company’s goal to lower the cost of spaceflight.
The liftoff Friday of the recycled Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for 10:36 am (1536 GMT) from a NASA launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The unmanned spaceship is packed with 4,800 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of food, supplies and experiments for the astronauts living at the International Space Station.
“This is the beginning of rapid and reliability reusability,” said SpaceX Dragon mission manager Jessica Jensen, at a press briefing Monday.
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.”
Weather was 90 percent favorable for Friday’s launch.
The Falcon rocket booster previously propelled a space station resupply mission in June, called CRS-11.
The Dragon capsule was flown to the ISS in 2015.
After launch, SpaceX plans to power the engines of the rocket booster and guide it back to Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a controlled touchdown.
If successful, it will mark SpaceX’s 20th successful recovery of a booster and the 14th this year alone.
Friday also marked the fourth time SpaceX is re-flying a used booster for one if its clients, and the second time shipping a pre-flown Dragon to space.
However, it marks the first such effort for NASA, SpaceX’s most important customer.
NASA’s ISS program manager Kirk Shireman said rocket experts from around the agency have reviewed safety for the mission.
“Some risks are actually less on a reflown booster, and some risks are actually greater, and the net result is about equivalent risk,” he told reporters Monday.
“Which is not to say zero risk, so yes, we will be anxious but I would not say a higher level of anxiety for this reflown booster than for a new booster.”
The mission is SpaceX’s 13th of 20 under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense