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Resupply Mission to ISS Launched by SpaceX

Early Sunday, SpaceX launched a Dragon cargo capsule from Florida into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, marking the company’s 23rd commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. At 3:14:49 a.m. EDT, the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket roared to life and shot away from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, an instantaneous launch opportunity defined by the moment Earth’s rotation brought the spaceport under the orbital plane of the space station.

Due to bad weather at the space center, a launch attempt on Saturday morning was canceled. With 1.7 million pounds of thrust, nine Merlin 1D main engines, each consuming kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants propelled the rocket northeast from Florida’s Space Coast. The Falcon 9’s first stage shut down and separated after soaring into a moonlit sky, letting the rocket’s single-engine second stage continue the mission of delivering the Cargo Dragon capsule into orbit.

Meanwhile, the 15-story first stage restarted three of its engines near the edge of space to begin propulsive maneuvers toward SpaceX drone ship “A Shortfall Of Gravitas,” located about 180 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral. The first maneuver, known as a “boost back burn,” lowered the stage’s downrange velocity, and a few minutes later, an entry burns altered the stage’s trajectory back into the atmosphere.

A final booster burn using the rocket’s center engine slowed the vehicle to land on the drone ship’s deck. Following missions in November 2020 and April with astronaut-carrying Crew Dragon capsules, the booster made its fourth trip to space. On June 6, the third mission launched a SiriusXM radio broadcasting satellite into orbit. While the first stage of the Falcon 9 landed safely but spectacularly downrange, the upper stage completed the task of deploying the Cargo Dragon spacecraft.

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