SpaceX is launching yet another recycled rocket into space on Monday.
This time, the company is sending a reusable Falcon 9 rocket and a ‘flight-proven’ Dragon capsule carrying supplies and science experiments to the International Space Station (ISS).
The launch is scheduled for takeoff at 4:30p.m. (ET) from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
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The Dragon capsule (pictured) has been used several times to bring supplies to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Dragon is the only supply ship that is able to return items to Earth, as it’s built to withstand re-entry
Inside the Dragon’s pressurized compartment are 5,800 pounds of supplies, payloads and vehicle hardware, according to SpaceX.
The spacecraft is also towing ‘critical materials’ that will be used in science and research investigations occurring onboard the ISS.
One of these investigations includes a British-led mission working to salvage potentially dangerous space junk orbiting the Earth.
The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, to be deployed from the ISS, will carry a net for capturing space litter and a harpoon that can be used to spear and haul in larger objects.
It’s not the first time that SpaceX has delivered supplies to the ISS using a Falcon 9 and a Dragon capsule.
SpaceX has completed 14 successful resupply missions and 11 of them used a recycled first-stage booster.
SpaceX launched and safely returned a reusable Dragon capsule in 2017. The resupply mission brought nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station
Monday’s launch comes just days after SpaceX launched another reused rocket to space, carrying 10 Iridium satellites. Unlike previous launches, SpaceX isn’t recovering the first stage
Unlike previous missions, however, the firm said it won’t attempt to recover Falcon 9’s first stage after launch.
The reason for that is because SpaceX is hoping to collect valuable data during the rocket’s fall in the ocean.
‘This one seemed like a really good opportunity to fly a trajectory a little bit out more towards the limits,’ Jessica Jensen, director of Dragon mission management at SpaceX, said at a press briefing, according to the Verge.
‘And that way, our engineers can collect additional data, not only during reentry but during landing that will be useful for the future,’ she added.
The launch comes just days after SpaceX launched the latest batch of Iridium satellites to orbit atop a reused Falcon 9 rocket.
WHY DOES SPACEX RE-USE ROCKETS AND OTHER PARTS?
SpaceX tries to re-use rockets, payload fairings, boosters and other parts to try to cut down on the cost of each rocket mission.
The total cost of one of its Falcon 9 launches is estimated to reach £44 million ($61m), while each of its larger Falcon Heavy flights costs £65 million ($90m).
The space company has previously re-used first-stage and second-stage rocket boosters, in addition to one of its previously flown Dragon capsules.
The Dragon spacecraft are used as the final stage of SpaceX missions to resupply the International Space Station.
In an incredible accomplishment, the Falcon Heavy’s reused side boosters landed smoothly back down to Earth on two separate launchpads about 8 minutes in.
SpaceX is currently testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets.
The payload fairings are clam shell-like nose cone halves that protect the craft’s payload.
SpaceX recovered a payload fairing for the first time in 2017.
During its first Falcon Heavy launch in February 2018, the firm landed two of the firms side boosters simultaneously on separate launchpads.
The rocket, which was previously used for the Iridium 3 launch back in October, lifted off from the SpaceX Launch Complex Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday.
After the Falcon 9 launches on Monday, the Dragon spacecraft will stay in orbit andfloat toward the ISS.
It’s expected to meet up with ISS on Wednesday, at which point astronauts will use the station’s 57.7-foot robotic arm to reach out and capture the Dragon capsule.
Dragon is carrying a slew of materials onboard to support more than 250 experiments being conducted by ISS crew members.
A British-led mission will demonstrate technology designed for picking up litter in space. (University of Southampton/PA)
Investigations include studies of severe thunderstorms on Earth, bioluminescent cells and growing food in space, according to NASA.
The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, designed and built by a consortium led by the University of Surrey and funded by the European Commission, is the first practical attempt to try out clean-up technology aimed at tackling dangerous space junk.
In the first of a series of capture experiments, a net will be discharged to wrap around and ensnare a target cubesat miniature satellite.
A second experiment will see a harpoon fired at a target plate.
Other tests of navigation and a large drag sail designed to slow down the RemoveDEBRIS space craft as it falls out of orbit, ensuring it burns up on re-entry, will also be carried out.
China’s out of control Tiangong 1 space station smashed into Earth at 17,000mph off the coast of Tahiti on Monday morning and mostly disintegrated as it hit the planet’s atmosphere
China’s defunct Tiangong 1 space station hurtled towards Earth and re-entered the atmosphere on Monday. It is pictured in an undated radar image
‘We believe the technologies we will be demonstrating with RemoveDEBRIS could provide feasible answers to the space junk problem – answers that could be used on future space missions in the very near future,’ said Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey.
The fiery demise of the Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 was a timely reminder of the growing hazard of space junk.
The defunct 10.4 metre long space craft, weighing 8.5 tonnes, re-entered the atmosphere at around 01.15 BST on Monday.
According to official reports it mostly broke up harmlessly above the South Pacific, but there is uncertainty about its precise fate.