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SpaceX Targets Next Resupply Mission for NASA

SpaceX has targeted Feb. 18 to launch Dragon, a spacecraft that will deliver supplies and scientific experiments to the International Space Station for NASA.

It’s an important launch for SpaceX, led by CEO Elon Musk, because it marks the second one since an explosion in September temporarily halted space flights.

The Dragon spacecraft will be deployed on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a site that was originally built for the Apollo program. This will be the first from the launch pad since SpaceX began modernizing the structure in preparation to fly astronauts on future NASA missions, according to the space agency.

The Dragon will carry supplies as well as a number of science experiments to the space station, including an experiment that will use the low gravity environment to grow stem cells to use in the treatment of patients who have had strokes. Another is a Merck Research Labs investigation that tests growth in low gravity of antibodies that are important for fighting a human diseases including cancer.

This will be the 10th contracted mission by SpaceX under a NASA commercial resupply contract.

 

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SpaceX returned to flight in January following an explosion on Sept. 1 at the Cape Canaveral. After SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded during a test firing in September, the company postponed its planned launches.

In January, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 loaded with 10 of Iridium Communications’ satellites. They were successfully deployed, and the Falcon 9 landed on a drone ship in the Pacific ocean.

After a new launch pad in Florida is ready, the company plans to launch its Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told Reuters on Monday. This would be the fastest pace since SpaceX started launches in 2010.

The new launch pad in Florida is expected to be put into service next week.

Update: This story was corrected at 11:15 am ET. The Falcon 9 landed on a drone ship, not a launch pad.