SpaceX launched a load of supplies to the International Space Station on Saturday following a pair of unusual power delays.
A Falcon rocket raced into the pre-dawn darkness, carrying a Dragon capsule with 2,500 kilograms of goods. This dragon, which is being recycled – makes its second space trip – is due to arrive on Monday's rotary laboratory.
Meanwhile, the booster boosted a smooth wharf on a small recovery vessel at sea.
SpaceX could not resist the Star Star Day connection – Saturday is 4 May.
"Dragon is now on the way to the official space station," SpaceX launch commentator announced once to the capsule reaching orbit and its solar wings. "Until the next time, the Fourth will be with you."
The supply a few days late due to a shortage of electrical power first arose at the space station, then a SpaceX rocket landing platform in the Atlantic. Both problems were quickly resolved with equipment replacements: a power switching unit in orbit and an offshore generator.
Records after liftoff, SpaceX landed its first stage reinforcement, brand new on the sea platform about 16 kilometers off the coast, much closer than the custom with the sonic springs easy to hear on the launch site .
"That looked really cool in the night sky," said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of SpaceX who left his launch control seat to run outside and watch.
The likely reinforcement will be reused for the next SpaceX supply run. That is why the company and NASA suspended the Friday census at the last minute – so the recovery vessel could be repaired and full power was obtained for the jetty. This was the first time a launch like this was mixed by rocket landing concerns.
The booster should have returned to Cape Canaveral, but SpaceX is still cleaning up the crash in April 20 and destroyed a hollow capsule dragon cup.
Koenigsmann said earlier this week that the company doesn't always know what caused the empty capsule cut apart in flames on a test stand. The SuperDraco projectors, launched by the capsule, were only half a second from firing when the blast occurred.
This first crew capsule had completed a successful, unmanned trial trip to the space station in March. SpaceX planned to change the capsule on an abortion test launched in June, before the first trip with astronauts on a new Dragon crew. The schedule is now in the air, as SpaceX is scrambling to identify and correct what went from its place.
SpaceX has been restocking the station since 2012.
This latest cargo – Dragon – making the company load at 17 – carries equipment and experiments for the six space station astronauts, including a tool to monitor carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere.
The company in California is also contracted by NASA, along with Boeing, to transport astronauts to the space station. It is unclear whether these commercial crew flights will start this year, given the Dragon's crash and Boeing's own delay with his Starliner capsule.
Astronauts have not launched from Cape Canaveral since the space shuttle mission last in 2011, rather than rockets rockets Russia at a steep cost to NASA.