Dragon flies, Falcon lands—another good day for SpaceX

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Enlarge / The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon spacecraft onboard, is seen at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Saturday.

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5:20pm ET Saturday update: The clouds broke apart enough for the Falcon 9 rocket to launch on Saturday evening from Kennedy Space Center, and, after delivering its payload into low Earth orbit, the booster made a landing back in Florida. Today marks the 11th successful first-stage recovery performed by SpaceX.

Meanwhile, the used Dragon spacecraft reached a good orbit, and it will now spend the better part of three days catching up to the International Space Station before it is grabbed by a robotic arm and unloaded by astronauts. It will stay on orbit for about a month before returning to Earth. All indications are that the spacecraft is in good condition.

Original post: Thunderstorms on Thursday scuttled an attempt by SpaceX to make an historic re-flight of its cargo Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX will now try again Saturday. Because of the orbital dynamics required to reach the International Space Station, today’s attempt has an instantaneous launch window, at 5:07pm ET (10:07pm BST).

That may pose a problem because today’s weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center are again iffy. Officially, there remains a 60-percent chance of favorable weather at launch time. However, by early Saturday afternoon, cumulus clouds had begun to develop near the launch site, which presages the formation of afternoon showers and thunderstorms—as is common in Florida during the summer.

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