Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the first spacecraft ferrying cargo to the International Space Station since a Russian capsule spun out of control and was destroyed last month.
The Falcon 9 rocket laden with experiments, supplies and equipment for the crew of the orbiting lab, rumbled aloft at 10:21 a.m. local time from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is the seventh cargo delivery mission handled by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. under a $1.6 billion contract.
Musk’s Hawthorne, California-based company will also attempt to land the rocket’s 14-story-tall first stage upright on an unanchored platform bobbing in the Atlantic Ocean. The feat is intended to cut spaceflight costs by reusing engines and other components.
About three minutes into flight, when the Falcon 9 is more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) high and traveling more than 10 times the speed of sound, the craft’s main engines will shut down before the first and second stages separate. A Dragon capsule loaded with cargo will head to orbit and the space station, while the booster flies back to earth.
SpaceX’s initial landing attempt in January failed after the first stage ran out of hydraulic fluid needed to help steer it. In April, a booster descended within 10 meters of the target, but landed too hard to stay upright.
SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration to resupply the orbiting lab. Astronauts there haven’t received any cargo since a Russian-made Progress vehicle launched atop a Soyuz rocket began spinning uncontrollably after it reached orbit April 28. The craft was destroyed nine days later.
The next Progress resupply mission is scheduled to blast off July 3.
Musk, 44, founded SpaceX in 2002 with the ultimate goal of colonizing other planets. The company has grown to almost 4,000 employees.