SpaceX has been carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) for more than five years, but the company achieved something special with its latest visit, completing the mission using a refurbished Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft together for the first time.
Since landing its Falcon 9 booster back on Earth for the first time in December 2015, SpaceX has largely made good on its promise to refurbish and relaunch these rockets. While private companies had previously launched satellites on these recycled boosters, the CRS-13 mission to the ISS on December 15 was the first time NASA had given them a go.
The Falcon 9 booster is the same one that resupplied the ISS in June 2017, while the Dragon spacecraft first carted supplies to the orbiting laboratory way back in April 2015. This time around, the ship was loaded up with 4,800 lb (2,177 kg) of materials and will spend around one month at the station after crew members snared it using the ISS' 18-meter (58-ft) robotic arm yesterday.
The Dragon spacecraft will return 3,600 lb (1,632 kg) of cargo to Earth when it conducts a de-orbit burn, reenter's the atmosphere and splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.
All going to plan, it will mark another milestone on SpaceX's march toward regular re-flight of its rockets and spacecraft, a key pillar in its strategy to reduce the cost of spacefaring and ultimately get humans to Mars.
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