Update Saturday 5:20 PM ET: The clouds parted enough for the Falcon 9 rocket to launch Saturday night from Kennedy Space Center, and after delivering its payload into low Earth orbit, the booster made a landing in Florida. Today marks the 11th successful stage one recovery performed by SpaceX.
Meanwhile, the used Dragon spacecraft did a good job and it will now spend the better part of three days catching up with the International Space Station before being grabbed by a robotic arm and unloaded by astronauts. It will remain in orbit for about a month before returning to Earth. Everything indicates that the spacecraft is in good condition.
Original message: Thursday thunderstorms sank an attempt by SpaceX to make a historic re-flight of its freighter Dragon. SpaceX will try again on Saturday. Due to the orbital dynamics required to reach the International Space Station, today’s attempt has an immediate launch window, at 5:07 p.m. ET (10:07 p.m. BST).
That could pose a problem, as today’s weather conditions at the Kennedy Space Center are again questionable. Officially, there remains a 60 percent chance of favorable weather during launch. However, cumulus clouds began to develop near the launch site early Saturday afternoon, predicting the formation of afternoon showers and thunderstorms, as is common in Florida during the summer.
This particular dragon first flew to the International Space Station in September 2014 when it delivered nearly 2.5 tons of cargo. That was SpaceX’s fourth resupply mission to the orbiting lab. It’s Saturday the 11th of the company and it will be carrying three tons of supplies to the station. The spacecraft has undergone a major overhaul and has a new heat shield. Still, flying the vehicle again is a major milestone for SpaceX, which has made reusability a hallmark of its efforts to reduce the cost of spaceflight.
In six decades of spaceflight, only NASA’s five space shuttles, two U.S. Air Force X-37B spaceplanes, and a single Soviet VA spacecraft have made two or more orbital flights. No private company has ever achieved this feat.
The launch video below starts about 20 minutes before the expected launch time. Just under eight minutes after launch, Falcon 9’s first stage will attempt to land on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, near the launch pad.