If there’s one thing SpaceX has become very good at, it’s making history. And in just a couple of hours, they’ll do it again.
Elon Musk and company will launch their tenth resupply mission to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral this morning at 10:01 am, EST. A Falcon 9 will break atmo with a Dragon capsule that’s ISS bound, and shortly thereafter, if all goes according to plan, SpaceX will once again land the first stage of the rocket– this time at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral. The Dragon will then rendezvous with the International Space Station on February 20.
It’s not the cargo of this 10th of 14 planned resupply missions to the ISS that’s particularly historic, nor is it SpaceX’s recovery of the Falcon’s first stage– something that the world used to watch for in anticipation during launches but is now practically taking for granted (a real credit to SpaceX). What makes this launch so special is where it’s taking place.
Columbia in launch configuration at LC-39A prior to the first Space Shuttle launch in 1981. (photo: Wikipedia)
SpaceX will send CRS-10 into the black from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. This particular launch site last saw action in 2011, during the waning days of the Space Shuttle program. Prior to that, though, it was the site from which America went to the Moon. In fact, every manned Apollo flight except for one (Apollo 10) was launched from LC-39A, and the Skylab space station was sent into orbit from there as well. In 1981, LC-39A ushered in a new era of American spaceflight with the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia, and the pad supported the shuttle program all the way through the final shuttle mission of Atlantis in 2011.
SpaceX is now leasing LC-39A from NASA, and this morning it will once again be the site from which we witness the next step in American spaceflight. This time around the future takes the shape of a privately-built, privately-owned rocket that will be carrying a privately built, privately-owned space capsule into the black in support of a space station that is internationally manned and operated by the joint efforts of several of the world’s government space agencies, after which that same rocket will return to Earth to land and be reused for future missions. And as if that’s not enough, within the year SpaceX may be ready use LC-39A to launch American astronauts into space in a manned version of that very same capsule. (If you agree with us that that first Crew Dragon should be named Serenity, be sure to write to SpaceX and let them know.) If a launch complex could talk, we bet LC-39A would find it appropriate to quote Firefly’s Malcolm Reynolds:
“I’m thinking we’ll rise again.”
You can watch SpaceX’s historic launch online this morning on NASA TV starting at 8:30am. SpaceX’s coverage of the launch should begin around 9:30am at spacex.com. Should the launch be postponed for any reason, the backup launch window is Sunday, February 19 at 9:38 am EST. Here’s to history.
Falcon 9 and Dragon stand ready to rise again at LC-39A. (photo: NASA)
Peace, love and rockets…