SpaceX Nails 11th Falcon 9 Booster Landing, Puts Recycled Dragon Capsule Into Orbit

SpaceX just hit another milestone. SpaceX yesterday launched its first recycled Dragon capsule with the Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). This was also the eleventh successful Falcon 9 booster landing.

The spacecraft was launched June 3rd after a two-day delay due to thunderstorms. SpaceX launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the 100th launch from 39A, the launch site of the Apollo moon missions as well as NASA’s last shuttle.

spacex reused dragon capsule

The Falcon rocket was brand new, but will be reused. It returned to Kennedy Space Center with a stellar vertical touchdown. SpaceX launched its first recycled booster two months ago and plans to reuse another booster this coming month.

The Dragon capsule actually contained many of its original parts. SpaceX, however, installed a new heat shield, parachutes, and a few other components. 

NASA’s space station program manager, Kirk Shireman, noted that reusing a capsule is not significantly more risky than using a brand new one. SpaceX went to great efforts to re-certify the Dragon with intense inspections and tests. SpaceX is not saving too much money quite yet, however, the company’s efforts have gotten others interested in “this whole notion of reuse”.

This is SpaceX’s eleventh mission for NASA, with the Dragon containing mice and flies for research, a roll-up solar panel, and a neutron star detector. SpaceX hopes to launch astronauts sometime next year.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted, “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.” SpaceX vice president, Hans Koenigsmann, remarked, “Overall a great day”. He also noted that the launch of the recycled Dragon capsule was “a pretty big deal”.