SpaceX's next robotic resupply mission to the International Space Station has been pushed from Friday (Dec. 8) to next Tuesday (Dec. 12) at the earliest.
"This new launch date takes into account pad readiness, requirements for science payloads, space station crew availability and orbital mechanics," NASA officials wrote in an update today (Dec. 5).
During the mission, SpaceX's two-stage Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, sending the uncrewed Dragon capsule on its way to the orbiting lab. Dragon will deliver about 4,800 lbs. (2,180 kilograms) of scientific hardware — including a space-junk tracker and a machine built by California company Made In Space that will manufacture optical fiber on orbit — and other supplies to crewmembers aboard the station.
The launch will initiate SpaceX's 13th contracted cargo run to the International Space Station for NASA. It will be the first one ever to launch with both a pre-flown Dragon and a pre-flown Falcon 9 first stage. (One previous SpaceX cargo mission featured a used Dragon.)
SpaceX aims to develop fully reusable spacecraft and rockets — technology that company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said will slash the cost of spaceflight.
The Falcon 9 first stage will attempt to pull off its second-ever touchdown shortly after liftoff Tuesday, coming back to Earth at Landing Zone-1, a SpaceX facility at Cape Canaveral.
To date, SpaceX has aced 19 such rocket landings and re-flown Falcon 9 first stages three times.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.