SpaceX Rocket Successfully Blasts Off for International Space Station
Reusable first-stage woke up a few Floridians upon its return.
In a moment sure to improve Elon Musk's rough month, SpaceX successfully launched a rocket packed with two tons of cargo from NASA's Cape Canaveral early this morning, sending a bevy of supplies—including a new docking adaptor—to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the unmanned Dragon spacecraft laden with scientific experiments and supplies for the astronauts at around 12:45 a.m. The most notable piece of cargo on board, however, is the new docking device. Known as the International Docking Adapter, or IDA, the space station door has been built to a new international standard that should enable any future spacecraft—private or otherwise—to dock with the ISS. The docking system includes a more sophisticated sensor package than previous ones, enabling spacecraft to automatically connect to the station; it also includes power and data ports that allow energy and information to flow to the craft. Both SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will use the adaptor in the near future.
Today's mission marks SpaceX's second shot at sending the IDA to the ISS. The first attempt, launched on June 18, 2015, ended in a rather spectacular fireball of failure roughly two minutes after takeoff.
As is becoming a regular occurrence on these missions, SpaceX successfully landed the first reusable stage of the Falcon 9 rocket in Florida minutes after the launch—much to the shock of residents across central Florida, many of whom were startled by a sonic boom generated as the booster descended back to Earth for a controlled, rocket-assisted landing. The unexpected noise prompted a chorus of 911 calls, according to local TV station News 6 Orlando.
The Dragon spacecraft is expected to rendezvous with the ISS on Wednesday morning. In the meantime, however, you can entertain yourself by watching NASA's video of the launch. It's worth checking out; the on-board footage and real-time telemetry data are cool enough to distract you from Pokemon Go for a good five minutes.