SpaceX’s ninth cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station will take place no earlier than 1:32AM ET on Saturday, July 16th, NASA announced today. A representative for SpaceX has confirmed to The Verge that the company will attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral. This will be the first time that SpaceX has attempted a landing on solid ground since the initial attempt last December, which was also the company’s first successful landing.
SpaceX will use its Falcon 9 rocket to launch the uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to the ISS. The Dragon will be carrying crew supplies and hardware, including two “docking adapters.” They’ll be attached outside the ISS to help prepare for commercial flights from SpaceX and Boeing. Those flights will start in 2017. (One of these will replace the adapter that was lost when SpaceX’s seventh cargo mission exploded mid-flight last summer.)
SpaceX nailed the first landing attempt at the Cape in December
Elon Musk’s company has been very busy since that first successful rocket landing at Cape Canaveral in December. In January, the company went back to trying to land the rockets on a drone ship in the ocean. That attempt failed when the rocket’s landing leg broke. A subsequent attempt in March failed as well.
But in April, the company finally nailed the landing at sea during a mission that also happened to be the first time SpaceX had resupplied the ISS since last year’s explosion. SpaceX repeated the feat in May, leading Musk to joke that the company was running out of space in its rocket hangar. The backlog could stack up quickly, because there are two more Falcon 9 launches before the July mission, and SpaceX tells The Verge it will attempt sea landings for both.
SpaceX has been working hard at making its rockets reusable because it could drastically reduce the cost of sending things (or people) to space. Of course, a big part of reusability is getting these rockets off the ground again in one piece — something SpaceX has not yet done, but plans to attempt sometime this summer.