SpaceX launches reused Dragon craft for first time

By Brooks Hays  |  Updated June 3, 2017 at 5:41 PM
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June 2 (UPI) -- SpaceX launched a reused Dragon capsule for the first time Saturday and returned a reusable Falcon 9 rocket to Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

A reusable Falcon 9 rocket sent the capsule into space at 5:07 p.m. before returning to a landing pad several miles from its launch location in Cape Canaveral.

The CRS-11 mission -- SpaceX's 11th resupply mission for the International Space Station -- was originally scheduled for Thursday, but the launch was scratched due to lightning.

Meteorologists were concerned weather would possibly be an issue again Saturday. They predicted 60 percent chance of favorable weather, with clouds and precipitation both a possibility. Bad weather proved not to be a factor.

The Dragon capsule was last used to carry equipment to the ISS in 2014 for the CRS-4 cargo mission. On Saturday, the spacecraft was filled with 6,000 pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific experiments. U.S. astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer are expected to receive the craft using the International Space Station's robotic arm at 10 a.m. EDT Monday.

Material essential to more than 250 different science experiments were packed neatly into the cargo ship, including seeds for the Seedling Growth-3 experiment -- which will be planted in the European Modular Cultivation System and subjected to various levels of light and gravity.

Hardware for NASA's Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments were also included in the cargo. The ACME hardware will enable the study of microgravity flames and bolster scientists' understanding of combustion under a variety of conditions.

"Four of ACME's experiments are designed to improve our understanding of flame behavior for practical use on Earth," Dennis Stocker, ACME project scientist at NASA's Glenn Research Center, said in a news release. "The other experiment is intended to help us understand and improve spacecraft fire safety."

Though no new humans were riding aboard the Dragon capsule, several mice traveled to the space station. They're part of testing for a novel bone-building protein which could help astronauts combat the loss of bone density that occurs during space travel.

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