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article imageSpaceX first — Recycled rocket soars with recycled capsule

By Karen Graham     Dec 15, 2017 in Technology
Cape Canaveral - Elon Musk's SpaceX chalked up another first today, launching a recycled rocket with a recycled capsule on a supply run to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA.
The previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket carrying a used Dragon cargo ship loaded with 4,800 pounds of scientific hardware, basic supplies and just possibly, some Christmas presents for all the good astronauts, lifted off today at 10:36 a.m. EST (1536 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The launch today was from the SpaceX-rented Complex 40, destroyed in September 2016, when a Falcon 9 blew up during a fueling drill. It cost SpaceX close to $50 million to rebuild the site. The successful flight from Complex 40 means SpaceX again has three launch sites, two in Florida and one in California, reports the Associated Press.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explosion at Cape Canaveral  Florida on September 1  2016
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explosion at Cape Canaveral, Florida on September 1, 2016
This was a fantastic way to end the year for SpaceX East Coast launches,” Jessica Jensen, a SpaceX manager told reporters.
The take away from this mission is historic in itself - This is the first time SpaceX has launched a pre-flown spacecraft atop a pre-flown rocket — and never before has the company employed a used rocket on a cargo mission for NASA.
NASA approved the use of the pre-flown booster after an extensive review of all the risks. "We're very comfortable that the risk posture on this vehicle is not significantly greater than [on] a new booster," Kirk Shireman, NASA's ISS program manager, said in a prelaunch briefing Monday (Dec. 11). "We think of it as an equivalent risk."
NASA’s Rodent Habitat module with both access doors open.
NASA’s Rodent Habitat module with both access doors open.
NASA/Dominic Hart
Scientific experiments this trip
Not only is there a wide variety of experiments on board the Dragon, but they are quite interesting, too. One experiment involves 40 mice for a muscle-wasting study. Muscle atrophy is a common problem for many patients suffering from prolonged immobilization from injuries, as well as astronauts in a microgravity environment.
Rodent Research-6 will use a drug called formoterol, commonly found in asthma inhalers and used to relax muscles responsible for tightening a patient's airways. The experiment will see how effectively the drug can counteract muscle wasting when released by a tiny device injected under the skin.
There is also a first-of-its-kind impact sensor for measuring space debris as minuscule as a grain of sand. and another sensor designed to measure just how much solar energy hits Earth. There is a project that will hopefully determine the least amount of gravitational pull that plants can detect. The results of this experiment could help future space colonists in growing crops on the moon and Mars.
Falcon 9 and Dragon went vertical on SLC-40 early this morning.
Falcon 9 and Dragon went vertical on SLC-40 early this morning.
Budweiser, with hopes of having the first beer brewery on Mars, sent up 200 barley seeds to see if they will survive exposure to a space environment. Budweiser's experiment is just one of the 329 ongoing experiments taking place in the ISS at this time, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Today's launch was the last SpaceX launch for 2017 from the East Coast. "A million things have to go right but any one of them can go wrong,” Jensen said. “It’s hard to quantify what would happen but everything dealing with a launch (must be right) because once it takes off, you don’t have command of the vehicle.”
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