SpaceX launched a shipment of groceries to the International Space Station on Tuesday, including the first espresso maker bound for orbit. Within minutes of liftoff, the California company led by billionaire Elon Musk was making its third attempt to land the leftover booster on an ocean platform.
Dragon, the SpaceX supply ship, holds more than 4,000 pounds (1,810 kilograms) of food, science experiments and equipment for the six space station astronauts. At liftoff time, the orbiting lab was soaring over Australia. The delivery should arrive Friday.
The specially designed espresso machine is for Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who has been stuck with American instant coffee since fall. The Italians in charge of the project hope to revolutionize coffee-drinking in space.
SpaceX, meanwhile, hopes to transform the rocket business by landing the first-stage booster on a platform floating a few hundred miles off Florida’s northeastern coast, near Jacksonville.
Musk wants to reuse his booster rockets rather than discard them as is the custom around the world, to reduce launch costs.
The booster was programmed, following separation 2½ minutes after liftoff, to flip around and fly to the platform dubbed “Just Read the Instructions.”
Ascent successful. Dragon enroute to Space Station. Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015
The goal, a vertical touchdown, eluded Musk in January and February. The steering system ran out of hydraulic fluid on the first try, and the booster slammed into the platform and exploded. Rough seas scrapped the second shot. Improvements to both the booster and platform followed.
This was the second launch attempt for this mission, SpaceX’s seventh supply run for NASA. Storm clouds halted Monday’s countdown.
The Dragon — the only supply ship capable of returning items intact — will remain at the space station until around May 21.
NASA is eager to get the Dragon’s contents to the space station. The agency still has a month-or-two backlog for food and equipment in the wake of the October loss of an Orbital Sciences Corp. cargo carrier. The unmanned rocket exploded at liftoff.
The espresso maker was among the items delayed by the accident. It should have arrived in January, two months after Cristoforetti moved into the space station. With her departure coming up in just one month, she won’t have much time to waste unpacking the Dragon and cranking out the espresso. Twenty coffee packets are included.
Story by the Associated Press.
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