SpaceX 17th mission lifts off for ISS

Rocket will deliver almost 2,500kg of science, supplies and hardware to the International Space Station on Monday.

Falcon 9 rocket takes off loaded with a Dragon cargo craft en route to to the International Space Station. Reuters
Falcon 9 rocket takes off loaded with a Dragon cargo craft en route to to the International Space Station. Reuters

Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies launched its 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station for long-time customer Nasa early Saturday.

The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon space capsule rumbled aloft at about 2:48am local time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Dragon will deliver almost 2,500kg of science, supplies and hardware, according to Nasa, and is slated to attach to the station on Monday. SpaceX will attempt to recover Falcon 9’s first stage on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX set a company record last year with 21 launches for customers. Much of the focus this year is on the first flight with humans on board. SpaceX and Boeing have contracts with Nasa to ferry American astronauts to the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew programme, according to Bloomberg.

SpaceX completed the Demo-1 flight of its “Crew Dragon” without humans on board in March. But in late April, the Dragon was engulfed in flames during a test, a mishap that probably will push back the commercial crew schedule.

“The vehicle was destroyed,” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, during a Thursday press conference in advance of Saturday’s CRS-17 flight with Nasa. “It’s too early to confirm any cause, whether probable or root. We are looking at all possible issues, and the investigation is ongoing.”

The April 20 accident occurred at Cape Canaveral as SpaceX was about to test eight emergency thrusters designed to propel the Crew Dragon capsule to safety from atop the rocket in the event of a launch failure, Reuters reported.

"Just prior, before we wanted to fire the [thrusters], there was an anomaly and the vehicle was destroyed," Mr Koenigsmann said. "There were no injuries. SpaceXhad taken all safety measures prior to this test, as we always do."

Published: May 4, 2019 12:30 PM

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