SpaceX debuts recycled rocket, new launch pad

Enlarge  The rocket launching Tuesday first flew

The Falcon 9 rocket (pictured above) in question first went into space to deliver a cargo to the ISS in June (CRS-11 mission), while the Dragon capsule made its first trip to the space station in April 2015 (CRS-6 mission). The complex, located at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, will host the rocket launch for a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Dragon is pictured docked to the International Space Station, August 18, 2017. Back in September 2016, SpaceX attempted to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40, but it was met with a disaster when the booster exploded and destroyed its payload the Amos-6 satellite. Tomorrow's launch will therefore be SpaceX's first reusability double-dip, with both booster and spacecraft.

SpaceX director Jessica Jensen says both the rocket and space craft are "flight proven", but the launch pad is brand new. Among the experiments is one sponsored by beer-giant Budweiser to learn more about how microgravity affects barley seeds. It will carry 4,800lbs of essential research equipment and supplies to the station, where it will dock for 30 days.

The SpaceX launch and the Soyuz crew rotation flights will cap a busy end-of-year schedule for NASA with an equally busy year on tap in 2018. "So really, 2018 (is) a very pivotal year". This would also mark the first time NASA has used a previously-flown rocket for a resupply mission.

"In the long run, reusability is going to significantly reduce the cost of access to space, and that's what's going to be required to send future generations to explore the universe", Jensen added. SpaceX has previously re-used its Falcon 9 rocket as well as its Dragon spacecraft. Reusability is a very key part of that.

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