With over 5,000 pounds of scientific experiments and critical space items onboard, SpaceX launched a resupply capsule to the International Space Station on Sunday, February 19th, 2017. Launch Complex 39-A, which hosted SpaceX’s Feb. 19th Falcon-9 liftoff has noted history in delivering the Apollo 11 crew to the moon, sending the Space Shuttle to help build both the ISS, as well as place the Hubble telescope. The pad is now breathing life again for the new chapter in human exploration: The Mars era.
In addition to flying from a historic launch complex, SpaceX managed to successfully land their 8th rocket back on earth after delivering an orbital payload. A feat which just a few years ago was thought to be a technological impossibility. “We’ll be successful ironically when it becomes boring. When it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, another landing. No news there.” Commented Elon Musk CEO, SpaceX regarding his team’s recent exploits.
The goal: cheaper, most consistent, and most importantly: reusable transport, mixed with a continually evolving technological model which addresses demands in what has been seen to be a financially aggressive way.
Originally built in the 1960s, Launch Complex – 39A was designed for the massive Saturn V rockets that launched American astronauts on their Apollo journeys to the moon and back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. “It’s like Time Square” commented Musk, and that it’s “The coolest launch location that I can think of.”
The pad will initially be tasked with missions designed to service Earth, and its closest celestial neighbor, the Moon. It will host flights, and re-flights of previously used booster stages, as well as the unveiling of SpaceX’s new rocket the Falcon Heavy. This new launch vehicle is set to become the world’s largest, and most capable rocket with a towing capability of 141,000 lb (64,000kg.)
The first mission to Mars has been set for 2020 after being delayed from a previously speculated 2017 launch.
“… I’m so excited that NASA has selected us to be one of their partners and also to be one of their partners in developing pad 39A ” affirmed SpaceX President , Gwynne Shotwell as well shortly after SpaceX signed a 20 year agreement for usage of the facility.
Astronauts onboard the International Space Station flying nearly 250 miles above Earth have already unpacked the “Cygnus” spacecraft and begun preparing experiments for activation. The manifest includes a number of scientific experiments pointed at different areas of biological study, earth science, and observation, as well as spaceship autopilot program named cade-named: Raven.
For more information on the science manifest see: