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SpaceX Will Make History With Its Launch Today

Today, SpaceX will be the only private company to launch an orbital space-probe twice. Only different government agencies have done this before. SpaceX will be launching a Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 to the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral in Florida. This mission, which will be the 100th aircraft fight from 39A, will also get the first phase booster of the ship attempt to land on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

This will be the eleventh cargo mission under contract with National Aeronautics & Space Agency, also known as CRS-11 (Commercial Resupply Services). This rocket wasfirst launched in September 2014, on CRS-4.

And that’s a huge deal. One of SpaceX’s aims is to bring down the budget of space travel by reusing gears. They have already launched and landed numerous rockets, with one of these flying to space two times in a row. Reusing the Dragon spacecraft is the next milestone.

The launch was originally planned to take place yesterday, but storms postponed that effort. The company is now planning to launch today, Saturday, June 3, at 5.07pm EDT (10.07pm BST).

The list of rockets that have travelled through space, returned, and then flown again is small. Scaled Composites did it with their suborbital space plane SpaceShipOne in 2004, and Blue Origin’s New Shepard performed a similar suborbital feat in 2015 and 2016.

As for orbital vehicles, NASA’s Space Shuttle is no doubt the most famous reusable orbiter, flying from 1981 to 2015. The Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle completed one unmanned spaceflight in 1988. And more recently, the mysterious X-37B mini-shuttle returned from space after its fourth mission.

So reusing Dragon will be a big deal for SpaceX. The exact cost of refurbishing the spacecraft to fly again isn’t clear, but one would expect it was significantly cheaper than the cost of building a new spacecraft.

Dragon will be carrying vital supplies to the ISS, as well as a number of interesting experiments. One of these is NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), which will be attached to the outside of the station in an attempt to study rapidly spinning neutron stars.

It will also be carrying experiments to monitor seedling growth in microgravity, study gaseous flames on the station, and see how particles called colloids move in gels and creams.

Dragon will stay aboard the station for one month, returning in early July with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean near Baja California. We don’t yet know if it’ll fly again, but if all goes to plan, we'll surely be seeing more Dragon vehicles make multiple trips to space.

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