Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. launched its 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station for longtime customer NASA early Saturday.
The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon space capsule rumbled aloft at about 2:48 a.m. local time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Dragon will deliver almost 5,500 pounds of science, supplies and hardware, according to NASA, and is slated to attach to the station on Monday. SpaceX will attempt to recover Falcon 9’s first stage on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX set a company record last year with 21 launches for customers. Much of the focus this year is on the first flight with humans on board. SpaceX and Boeing Co. have contracts with NASA to ferry American astronauts to the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew program.
SpaceX completed the Demo-1 flight of its “Crew Dragon” without humans on board in March. But in late April, the Dragon was engulfed in flames during a test, a mishap that probably will push back the commercial crew schedule.
“The vehicle was destroyed,” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, during a Thursday press conference in advance of Saturday’s CRS-17 flight with NASA. “It’s too early to confirm any cause, whether probable or root. We are looking at all possible issues, and the investigation is ongoing.”