SpaceX, the brainchild of entrepreneur and engineer Elon Musk, successfully launched and landed its 50th rocket on Friday after delivering supplies to the International Space Station.
The rocket, known as the Falcon 9, launched with 4,300 pounds of equipment for NASA. Shortly after taking off, it launched the supplies further into space while the first stage booster, one of the main parts of the rocket, came back down to Earth, landing in Cape Canaveral.
The cargo is on a smaller portion of the rocket called the Dragon capsule, which will embark on a three-day journey to the station where it will remain docked until April 9, 2020.
As the event unfolded, Musk tweeted that the rocket would land “in highest winds ever at Cape Canaveral tonight,” adding that “this is intentional envelope expansion,” meaning they were pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
The equipment the Dragon is carrying will help NASA scientists conduct experiments in space.
Some of the more interesting cargo includes “organ chips”, which examines the effects of microgravity on organ function in a laboratory setting, “MVP Cell-03”, to determine whether “microgravity increases the production of heart cells” from human stem cells, and a new modular facility called “Bartolomeo” that will attach to the staton’s exterior and help scientists conduct their work.
In addition, the Dragon also contains snacks for the station’s crew, including Skittles, Hot Tamales and Reese’s Pieces, as well as healthier food items.
The first Dragon’s final flight
This was the final launch for the first edition of the Dragon, which has been in operation since 2012. According to SpaceX, the next version of the capsule, set to debut later this year, will be able to send people along with its cargo.
In a tweet, SpaceX gave the capsule a send off, detailing the impact of the machine and highlighting its trailblazing work.
“Since its first mission in 2012 — when it became the first private spacecraft to visit the [International Space Station] — Dragon has spent over 520 days attached to the orbiting laboratory, delivered over 95,000 pounds of cargo, and returned over 76,000 pounds back to Earth.”
In addition to carrying cargo and astronauts, in the coming years SpaceX has plans to send tourists and private researchers to the station and into high solo orbits.
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