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SpaceX launches Space Station supplies on recycled rocket, lands booster

Dragon to deliver experiments, supplies to International Space Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX achieved another first Friday, launching a recycled rocket with a recycled cargo ship on a NASA supply delivery to the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral at 10:36 a.m. with a just-in-time-for-Christmas delivery for the astronauts living and working on the international orbiting laboratory.

The first-stage booster took flight again after a six-month turnaround. On board was a Dragon supply ship, also a second-time flier. SpaceX also successfully landed the rocket booster back at Cape Canaveral sending a sonic boom rumble throughout Central Florida. 

It's NASA's first use of a reused Falcon and only the second of a previously flown capsule. SpaceX has been launching, landing and relaunching boosters to drive down the cost of spaceflight.

This time, the Dragon is hauling nearly 5,000 pounds of space station goods, including more than 300 experiments for the orbiting laboratory. The science payloads include 20 barley seeds for Budweiser, a biometric device known as the GlucoWizzard to better manage blood glucose testing and diabetic care and 40 live mice.

[Watch the rocket landing and launch below]

Before astronauts start saying dilly, dilly, to actual beer, Budweiser hopes to determine how the main ingredient of beer fares in a microgravity environment. The experiment is a stepping stone for the company's ultimate goal of becoming the first brew on Mars.

"This is just the beginning of that very long work," Dr. Gary Hanning, director of global barley research at Anheuser-Busch said. "Us learning how to grow barely in space and how do we have an agricultural situation in those colonies (on Mars)."

The Dragon spacecraft should reach the orbiting outpost Sunday. Also on Sunday, three new crew members will launch from Kazakhstan to replace the astronauts who departed on Thursday. The American, Japanese and Russian astronauts will dock at the Space Station next Tuesday.

In another first the Falcon 9 launched from the newly renovated Space Launch Complex 40. In a $50 million rebuild, SpaceX made the pad more robust, burying support equipment and fuel lines under concrete and steel. The pad was damaged in September 2016 when a Falcon 9 rocket exploded at the complex. Renovations took six months longer to complete than the original estimate.

SpaceX plans to start of the New Year with another first. The company is targeting January for the maiden launch of its new vehicle, the Falcon Heavy. CEO Elon Musk caused a stir when he announced on Twitter earlier this month that the first payload will be a Tesla roadster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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