Elon Musk's rocket trucking business, SpaceX, is rolling on the celestial highway again after successfully launching a Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket, then landing the rocket's first stage back on terra firma.
The mission marks a second successful return to space (the first being this one) after a satellite launch effort, met with a fiery end in September last year, later found to be the result of a pressure vessel that was loaded at too low a temperature.
This launch was delayed by 24 hours after a “slightly odd” reading from a hydraulic piston that led Musk to offer the following analysis of the delay.
If this is the only issue, flight would be fine, but need to make sure that it isn't symptomatic of a more significant upstream root cause— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 18, 2017
By the 19th, no further anomalies were detected and the Falcon 9 ascended without incident. The Dragon 9 payload is now en route to the International Space Station, carrying supplies and the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE III) instrument that will peer at Earth’s high atmosphere to monitor gases there.
As is SpaceX's wont, the company also managed to land the Falcon 9's first stage, as shown in the video below.
Dragon will now take a couple of days to reach the ISS and looks to be in fine shape, as its solar arrays deployed as planned.
The launch is also notable for having used Kennedy Space Center's LC-39A facility for the first time. Used for numerous Space Shuttle and Apollo launches, the site's been refurbished by SpaceX and has become its third launch site, after another Kennedy pad and its California facility. SpaceX is also building a facility in the Boca Chica area of South Texas.