SpaceX launches unpiloted Dragon cargo ship to space station
By William Harwood
Pressing ahead after an April 20 test mishap that destroyed a Crew Dragon astronaut ferry ship, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket early Saturday that successfully boosted an unpiloted Dragon cargo capsule into orbit with nearly 5,500 pounds of equipment and supplies for the International Space Station's crew.
In a now-familiar spectacle, the rocket's first stage, making its first flight, flew itself back to Earth after propelling the Dragon out of the thick lower atmosphere, putting on a fiery nighttime show as it executed a picture-perfect descent to a SpaceX droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean about 17 miles from the launch pad. It was SpaceX's 39th successful booster landing and its 25th at sea.
SpaceX originally intended to bring the stage back to a landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but the destruction of the Crew Dragon spacecraft two weeks ago left hazardous debris and other wreckage strewn across the company's landing site, prompting mission managers to target the droneship instead.
Launch was delayed 24 hours because of an electrical problem aboard the droneship Friday, but the system was repaired and the floating landing pad was returned to service in time for Saturday's 2:48 a.m. EDT launch.
In any case, a little more than a minute after the first stage settled to the deck of the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship, the cargo Dragon was released from the Falcon 9's second stage, kicking off a two-day rendezvous with the space station.