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SpaceX Launches Rocket Carrying Space Station Cargo

Engines ignited and a rocket lifted off here on Sunday, for the first time since the last space shuttle launch five and a half years ago.
SpaceX Launches Rocket Carrying Space Station Cargo

A Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation — SpaceX — was launched, quickly disappearing into a low cloud deck, with 5,500 pounds of supplies, experiments and other cargo headed to the International Space Station, according to New York Times.

The Dragon cargo capsule is to arrive at the station on Wednesday. A robotic arm will grab the capsule and take it to one of the docking ports.

“All is looking great,” Jessica Jensen, the director of Dragon mission management at SpaceX, said in a news conference after the launch. “We’re not expecting any issues.”

SpaceX was again able to recover the booster stage. As the second stage ignited to push the cargo capsule to orbit, the booster turned around back toward land. Eight minutes after it left the ground, it set down on a landing site a few miles away. It was the eighth successful landing and the third on land. (The other landings occurred on floating platforms in the ocean.)

The success was another step in the recovery of SpaceX from a major setback last September when one of its rockets caught fire and exploded on a launchpad at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A launch attempt on Saturday was called off with 13 seconds left because of what Mr. Musk described as “slightly odd” readings with a backup motor for steering the engine nozzle on the second stage.

In response to a question posted on Twitter by a MSNBC producer, Mr. Musk said that he called off the launch to take a closer look to make sure the readings were not a sign of a more significant, undetected problem.

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In another post, Mr. Musk wrote, “1% chance isn’t worth rolling the dice. Better to wait a day.”

Overnight, SpaceX technicians swapped out the mechanism. The odd readings did not recur during Sunday’s countdown.

SpaceX hopes to catch up on its jammed schedule, which was delayed after the explosion. It plans to launch a used rocket — one of the recovered boosters — this spring. The next cargo mission for NASA is to be the first to reuse a capsule from a previous flight. The launch of the Falcon Heavy, a larger rocket years behind schedule, is aimed for summer. And by the end of the year, the company wants to test a rocket and capsule that is to lead to ferrying astronauts to the space station.

Beyond the resumption of SpaceX’s space station deliveries, Sunday’s launch also marked a transition of the Kennedy Space Center toward private use of the facilities.