SpaceX successfully launches Dragon capsule carrying crucial space station docking port

SpaceX successfully launches Dragon capsule carrying crucial space station docking port

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A SpaceX rocket carrying a crucial space station docking adapter for astronauts has successfully made it into orbit.

Falcon 9′s Dragon capsule launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with almost 5,000 pounds of food and equipment.

The Dragon successfully made it into orbit, according to Nasa, and is due to arrive at the space station on Wednesday.

In another milestone, the company managed to bring its 15-storey orbital booster back to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a vertical touchdown.

SpaceX brought its leftover first-stage booster back just a couple of miles from where it lifted off eight minutes earlier.

The company has now pulled off five vertical booster landings since December – with three on an ocean platform and two on land.

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of flight reliability for SpaceX, described the mission as a “really good day”.
He said the booster looked to be in “excellent shape and probably pretty soon ready to fly again.”

This is also SpaceX’s second shot at delivering a new-style docking port for Nasa – the last one went up in smoke over the Atlantic.

The company’s founder, Elon Musk, posted a video of the rocket being engulfed in smoke after it crash landed on a drone ship last year.

The International Docking Adapter (IDA) will allow spacecraft systems to automatically perform all the steps of rendezvous and dock with the station without input from the astronauts, with manual back-up systems available if needed.

It’s main purpose is to provide a port for spacecraft bringing astronauts to the station in the future.

Nasa needs this new docking set up at the space station before Americans can fly there in crew capsules set to debut next year.

SpaceX is building astronaut-worthy versions of its Dragon cargo ships, while Boeing — which makes these docking ports — is working on a crew capsule called Starliner.

Kirk Shireman, Nasa’s ISS programme manager, said: “Each commercial resupply flight to the space station is a significant event.

“Everything, from the science to the spare hardware and crew supplies, is vital for sustaining our mission.

“With equipment to enable novel experiments never attempted before in space, and an international docking adapter vital to the future of US commercial crew spacecraft, we’re thrilled this Dragon has successfully taken flight.”

Nasa went with private companies to supply the space station in the wake of the shuttle retirement five years ago.

The next step will be launching Nasa astronauts from US soil. For now, Americans are hitching rides on Russian Soyuz capsules.

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