SpaceX helps complete historic launch at Vandenberg

Muriel Hammond
December 8, 2018

A Christmas turkey, cranberry sauce, candied yams, and fruitcake were among Christmas items that were launched into space this week so that those spending Christmas day at the International Space Station could celebrate just like everyone else. It marked the first time the same booster flew three separate missions.

And Friday also see, United Launch Alliance's powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket launch from California Vandenberg Air Force Base - a classified spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. It also becomes the 20th overall launch conducted by Elon Musk's company in a single year, an absolute record for any space operator, be it government-owned or privately operated.

The Dragon spacecraft that will support the CRS-16 mission previously supported the CRS-10 mission in February 2017. The landing marked the first time SpaceX had flown a first stage three times. The first-stage booster aimed for a touchdown on land back at Cape Canaveral, once its job was done, but ended up smashing into the Atlantic Ocean instead. The company's "Block 5" series of Falcon 9 rockets are created to be used as many as 10 times.

European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst and NASA's Serena Aunon - who are already aboard the ISS - will use the space station's robotic arm to capture the Dragon when it arrives two days later. The hydraulic pump for the landing fins apparently stalled, but the engines stabilized the approximately 160-foot-tall booster just in time, allowing for "an intact landing in water!"

SpaceX is set to launch its latest mission for NASA from Florida on Wednesday, sending supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.

Today's launch was delayed by a day on short notice thanks to some moldy mouse chow. The crew-carrying version of Dragon is scheduled to fly a test mission next month, and if all goes well, will carry astronauts to the station later in the year in what would be the first crewed flight from US soil since the space shuttles retired in 2011. Newcomers Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will stay until June.

The Falcon 9 started spinning uncontrollably when it returned back to Earth.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article