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World

February 20, 2017

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SpaceX blasts off cargo from historic launchpad

SpaceX blasts off cargo from historic launchpad

MIAMI: SpaceX on Sunday blasted off its Falcon 9 rocket carrying the unmanned Dragon cargo ship, packed with food and supplies for the six astronauts living at the International Space Station.

The white rocket soared into the cloudy, gray skies over Cape Canaveral, Florida at 9:38 am (1438 GMT).

The mission was the first to take off from Nasa’s historic launchpad 39A, the origin of the pioneering US spaceflights that took astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the space shuttle missions that ran from 1981 to 2011.

The launch was initially planned for Saturday, but was canceled just 13 seconds before liftoff due to a glitch with the rocket engine.

"They resolved all the technical issues last night," said Nasa’s Bob Cabana, director of Kennedy Space Centre.

The origin of the problem -- a piece of equipment known as the thrust vector control actuator in the second stage -- was replaced. Subsequent tests showed it was working fine, a SpaceX spokesman explained.

The unmanned spaceship is packed with more than 5,000 pounds of food, gear and science experiments for the astronauts in orbit.

It is the 10th such resupply mission for SpaceX, which along with Orbital ATK has a multi-year contract with NASA to send supplies to the International Space Station.

Following the launch, SpaceX plans to try landing the booster portion of the Falcon 9 at a different part of Cape Canaveral.

If successful, the upright touchdown of the Falcon 9’s first stage would mark the third time SpaceX has managed to stick a landing on solid ground.

Other such landings have taken place on floating ocean platforms, as the company perfects its techniques of powering costly rocket parts back to land instead of jettisoning them in the ocean after a single use.

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