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SpaceX successfully launched its latest supply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, June 3.
Sitting atop the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, an uncrewed Cargo Dragon laden with more than 7,300 pounds of equipment and other goodies blasted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at about 1:30 p.m. ET. The Cargo Dragon is scheduled to dock with the space station on Saturday morning.
The start of the mission went exactly according to plan, beginning with a Falcon 9 rocket roaring toward space.
Two-and-a-half minutes in, the Falcon 9 first stage fell away from the second stage and began its journey back to Earth.
A little over five minutes later, the first stage made a perfect landing on SpaceX’s Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed just off the coast of Florida. While the camera attached to the booster continued to function throughout the landing procedure, the footage from the boat-based camera cut out at the crucial moment, something that happens often in these situations. The landing was the first for this particular Falcon 9 booster and marked SpaceX’s 86th successful recovery overall.
Twelve minutes into the mission, Cargo Dragon performed a smooth separation from the Falcon 9 second stage. The video below shows the Cargo Dragon drifting slowly away, with the rollout solar displays clearly visible in the spacecraft’s trunk. During spacewalks scheduled for June 16 and June 20, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet will attach the arrays to the ISS as part of ongoing upgrade work to the orbiting laboratory’s power supply.
This latest launch marks the 22nd contracted resupply mission for SpaceX, which since 2020 has also started using its Crew Dragon spacecraft for crewed missions between Earth and the space station.
Besides supplies and solar arrays, SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft is also carrying with it lots of experiments for deployment in microgravity conditions. The science-based consignment includes water bears (also known as tardigrades) and glow-in-the-dark squid. You can find out more about how astronauts will be using the creatures here.