SpaceX makes spectacular ground landing after Dragon launch
SpaceX scored a double success today by sending a Dragon into orbit and nailing another ground landing.
At 12:45 am EDT, the CRS-9 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, setting an unmanned Dragon cargo ship on course for a rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX says that the launch, second stage separation, and deployment of the Dragon spacecraft were carried out without incident. Shortly afterwards, the first stage Falcon 9 booster flew back to Cape Canaveral, where it landed at Landing Zone 1. This is the second time that the Falcon 9 has managed a landward landing and the first since the Orbcomm 2 mission last December.
The ninth of up to 20 missions by SpaceX to the ISS, CRS-9 carries 5,000 lb (2,270 kg) of supplies, equipment, and science experiments as well as a replacement for the docking ring lost in the destruction of CRS-7. The new Docking Adaptor-2 allows any manned spacecraft or unmanned cargo ship to dock with one another at any angle of rotation.
The Dragon will spend the next two days making a series of course corrections to match its orbit with the ISS, after which it will be captured by a robotic arm and guided to a docking berth on the station. Later, the arm will remove the docking ring from the Dragon's unpressurized cargo section and guide it to the Harmony module, where spacewalking astronauts will make the final connection.
The Dragon is scheduled to spend over a month at the ISS before returning to Earth for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off Baja, California, where it will be recovered.
The video below recaps the CRS-9 launch.