The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 1:16 p.m. local time. The payload in the Dragon capsule includes technology to test robotic spacecraft refueling and to map the world’s forests, along with two student experiments inspired by Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” series, according to NASA.
The rocket’s first stage went into the water instead of touching down on land. Musk tweeted about the problem:
Dragon is slated to rendezvous with the orbiting lab early Saturday and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California in January, according to NASA.
Wednesday’s mission, known as CRS-16, marks SpaceX’s 20th launch of the year, up from a record 18 in 2017. The company has been able to cut costs and win market share by designing its rockets and spacecraft for reusability. The Dragon capsule last flew to the space station in February 2017.
The Hawthorne, California-based company’s valuation has climbed to about $28 billion as it has racked up successful missions, making it the third-most valuable venture-backed startup in the U.S. after Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc.
SpaceX has a contract to ferry American astronauts to the space station as part of what’s known as the Commercial Crew program with NASA, but the timeline for the first flights has slipped repeatedly. The agency’s current schedule has SpaceX’s first uncrewed demonstration flight on January 7 and the first flight with astronauts on board in June. DM
"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" ~ Sir Isaac Newton