SpaceX on Saturday successfully launched and landed its trademark Falcon 9 rocket, part of a greater mission which propelled various cargo and supplies to the International Space Station.
The rocket touched down at its landing site in Cape Canaveral, Fla., an area known as Landing Zone 1.
This means SpaceX’s streak of successfully recovering its vehicles on solid ground has increased — five ground landings have been attempted and achieved since the missions began. The company is also in possession of ten Falcon 9 rockets that have flown to space and back.
The landings may appear on the surface as fairly routine at this point, however, the cargo inside of the Falcon 9 before its landing was significant, or if nothing else, unique. For this specific mission, SpaceX used a Dragon cargo capsule that had already been flown to space on a previous mission. The Dragon previously flew on SpaceX’s fourth cargo resupply mission for NASA back in Sept. 2014. There, it remained docked at the ISS for almost a month before a successful Earth re-entry and splashdown into the Pacific Ocean.
It’s the first time a Dragon has been reused for a flight, making SpaceX the first private company to send a vehicle into orbit for a second time.
For this mission, the Dragon capsule is carrying about 6,000 pounds of supplies and science experiments for the crew of the International Space Station. Included in the cargo are a group of fruit flies to test out how the cardiovascular system functions in microgravity, as well as a group of mice to study bone loss in the space environment.
There is some pretty unique technology flying to the crew, as well.
Packed inside of Dragon’s trunk is an instrument called NICER, which will eventually be mounted to the outside of the space station to look for neutron stars, as well as a specialized solar panel called ROSA which can be unfurled a bit like a flag.
Dragon is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Monday.
Saturday’s launch marked the 100th mission from NASA’s LC-39A, a historic site at the space agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The same pad was also used to launch the first crewed mission to the Moon as well as the last Shuttle mission.