SpaceX are in final preparations ahead of the CRS-11 Falcon 9 launch to the International Space Station, delivering several thousand pounds of science and supplies aboard the Dragon cargo spacecraft to the orbital outpost.
The Falcon 9 rocket is set to lift off from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 39A on June 1st at 17:55 EDT (22:55 BST). If all is successful, the Dragon spacecraft will rendezvous and capture on Sunday morning. SpaceX will be expecting to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 back at Cape Canaveral shortly after launch, an event that is becoming increasingly routine.
As with so many launches to the ISS, the cargo being delivered to the orbital outpost will provide the astronauts onboard with new supplies and scientific experiments. The unpressurised trunk of the spacecraft will be used to transport solar panels, tools for Earth observation, and equipment to study neutron stars.
This launch marks the first ever re-use of a Dragon spacecraft, and the first time that a previously flown spacecraft will arrive at the ISS since the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis in July 2011. The Dragon used will be the one previously flown on the CRS-4 mission in 2014. SpaceX hope that by being able to re-use the cargo Dragon spacecraft on a regular basis, focus can be shifted to the production of the crewed variant of the Dragon, set to launch crew from American soil to the International Space Station from late 2018.
Ever since CRS-9, Dragon launches to the ISS have been opportunities to attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 spacecraft back on land. If all goes to plan, roughly eight minutes after launch the 140 foot tall booster will touch down at Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral. So far all four landing attempts at LZ-1 have been a complete success, so SpaceX will be feeling extremely confident once again to nail the landing and have another core available for re-use in the potentially near future.
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