Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from historic launch pad
The present and the past mixed today as SpaceX's Falcon 9 blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) from the same launch pad used by the Apollo 11 mission. At 9:38 am EST, the CRS-10 mission lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, carrying an unmanned Dragon cargo ship loaded with about 5,000 lb (2,270 kg) of supplies for the orbital laboratory. This is the second successful Falcon 9 launch since it re-entered service on January 14 after a launch pad explosion on September 1, 2016.
Today's launch came after a 24-hour postponement due to an anomaly in the second stage. At T minus 13 seconds, ground control signaled a hold and abort when the rocket nozzle on the second stage engine was found set at the wrong angle. In a Tweet, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said that this in itself would not have affected the flight, but it was feared that it might indicate a problem further up in the system.
The liftoff took place under cloudy skies and was the tenth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-10) by SpaceX for the ISS. It is also the first from the historic Launch Complex 39A, which was the starting point for many of the Apollo missions in the 1960s and '70s, including the first Saturn V launch on the unmanned Apollo 4 mission, the Apollo 8 mission that circled the Moon, and the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. It was later modified for use in the Space Shuttle program. It's now under a 20-year lease to SpaceX and has been extensively modified for company operations.
Today's launch occurred without incident, with the second stage separating two minutes and 24 seconds into the flight and firing eight seconds later. The Dragon spacecraft separated at the ten-minute-and-five-second mark and deployed its solar panels to power the onboard systems.
Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 first stage carried out an orbital burn and re-entered the atmosphere, where it maneuvered back to Kennedy to make a controlled powered landing. It touched down at SpaceX's Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida at 9:46 am EST. This was the third successful Falcon 9 landing at Canaveral.
The Dragon spacecraft is currently conducting a series of orbital maneuvers to allow it to match trajectories with the ISS and rendezvous with the station in two days, where it will be captured by a robotic arm by the station crew and guided to a berth. It will remain there for about one month before being loaded with materials and returned to Earth for a splashdown and recovery in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.
The video below is the technical webcast of the CRS-10 launch.