NEW YORK — SpaceX just had one eventful day.
Over the course of just 12 hours, the company guided a Dragon spaceship home from the International Space Station, then attempted to launch a communications satellite on one of its Falcon 9 rockets — but aborted the mission with just ten seconds left on the clock.
SpaceX checked off the first task in the early hours of Monday morning. That’s when SpaceX’s Dragon undocked from the space station. It then fired up its engines so it could safely cut back through the earth’s atmosphere before deploying its parachutes and landing in the ocean just after 8 a.m. ET.
That completed SpaceX’s 11th unmanned resupply mission to the space station — and the company’s very first resupply mission with a used Dragon spacecraft.
Yep, the Dragon capsule that landed in the ocean Monday morning had done it all once before.
It was first flown to the space station in a September 2014 mission before SpaceX brought it home, refurbished it and sent it off to the space station again on June 3. It stayed for a month, while the crew conducted some experiments that Dragon brought along, and it was loaded with lab results and other items before it was sent home Monday.
Reusing stuff it sends to space is a major part of SpaceX’s business plan. It’s a big reason why the company has been so influential in the commercial space industry. The idea is to drastically reduce the price of spaceflight by creating hardware — rocket boosters, spacecrafts, etc. — that can be used more than once.
But SpaceX didn’t have that long to celebrate its Dragon reflight success.
The company was geared up for its second attempt to launch a rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida Monday evening. The plan was to send a hefty communications satellite toward geostationary orbit.
But SpaceX’s computers — which are programmed to screen the rocket for any abnormalities — scrubbed the launch just moments before liftoff, and it wasn’t clear what the issue was in the immediate aftermath of the halt.
It seemed like an exact repeat of what happened Sunday night during the first launch attempt, though John Insprucker, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 project director who hosted Monday night’s webcast, said SpaceX had fixed whatever issue that had suspended Sunday’s attempt.
SpaceX says it’ll try again to launch the satellite on the July 4 holiday.
The company won’t attempt its signature move: guiding the first-stage rocket booster back to Earth so it can be used again. The Intelsat satellite on board is extremely heavy, so the Falcon 9 will have to go full throttle to generate enough upward thrust. That meant there won’t be enough fuel left to guide the Falcon home.
SpaceX can’t reuse everything. Yet.