SpaceX launched its first recycled cargo ship to the International Space Station on Saturday, yet another milestone in its bid to drive down space flight costs. After a two-day delay caused by thunderstorms, the unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off carrying a Dragon capsule that made a station delivery nearly three years ago, reports the AP. When this refurbished Dragon reaches the orbiting lab on Monday, it will be the first returning craft since NASA's now-retired shuttles. The first-stage booster flown Saturday afternoon was brand new, and as is now the custom, returned to Cape Canaveral following liftoff for a successful vertical touchdown. That's the fifth time SpaceX has returned a rocket booster to Cape Canaveral, notes Spaceflightnow.com. "The Falcon has landed," SpaceX Mission Control declared, and a cheer went up.
The plan is to launch the booster again, instead of junking it in the ocean as so many other rocket makers do. Just two months ago, SpaceX launched its first recycled booster on a satellite mission. Another flight featuring a reused booster is due later this month. This Dragon capsule, meanwhile, came back for take two following a few modifications and much testing. Shortly before liftoff, SpaceX VP Hans Koenigsmann called the Dragon reflight "a pretty big deal." "Overall a great day," Koenigsmann later told reporters. SpaceX chief Elon Musk tweeted early Sunday: "It's starting to feel kinda normal to reuse rockets. Good. That's how it is for cars & airplanes and how it should be for rockets." For now, SpaceX says savings are minimal because of all the inspections and tests performed.