SpaceX Launches Cargo Into Orbit, Then Falcon 9 Rocket Hits the Deck

March 27, 2014 – 08:05 am

Image: Webcam view of landingAfter a day's delay, SpaceX launched its robotic Dragon cargo craft to the International Space Station on Tuesday — and then brought the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket down to a nearly successful landing on a floating platform.

Liftoff came at 4:10 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, almost exactly 24 hours after an earlier countdown was scrubbed when threatening clouds drifted too close to the launch pad.

Minutes after launch, the Dragon and the Falcon 9's second stage separated from the first stage and continued onward into space. Meanwhile, the first stage relit its rocket engines, decelerated from supersonic speeds and guided itself toward a landing on an "autonomous spaceport drone ship, " stationed hundreds of miles off the Florida coast in the Atlantic.

SpaceX's billionaire founder, Elon Musk, reported in a tweet that the rocket landed on the drone ship, "but too hard for survival." Later, he tweeted that the Falcon "landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post-landing."

A webcam view from the deck of an autonomous drone ship shows SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stage firing its rockets for a landing after the launch of a Dragon cargo ship. SpaceX

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket stage seems unsteady in this distorted view from a webcam aboard the landing ship. SpaceX

Musk also reported that the Dragon was successfully en route to the space station, a view seconded by NASA. The Dragon is due to link up with the station on Friday.

This is the sixth of at least 12 cargo deliveries covered by a $1.6 billion contract between SpaceX and NASA. The mission's prime objective is to transport more than 4, 300 pounds (1, 950 kilograms) of supplies and payloads, including the first zero-G espresso machine to go into orbit.

The Italian-built ISSpresso device was supposed to be delivered to the space station in January, but the loss of an Orbital Sciences shipment in October forced a reordering of the delivery schedule.


Source: www.nbcnews.com

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