SpaceX lands another rocket, and a scientific payload is on its way to the ISS

SpaceX has managed to successfully land its fifth rocket in seven months, getting so good at it now that it’s almost ceasing to be an impressive party trick.

If it’s not clear why that’s special, well, it’s for two reasons. The first is that until SpaceX managed to park a rocket, they were very much a one-use product. That’s fine for things like toothpicks or paper towels, but given each Falcon 9 rocket costs around $60 million, getting more than one use makes the economics of space travel much more affordable, which is essential for our progress and for founder Elon Musk’s aim of dying on Mars (“just not on impact”).

The second reason is the ridiculously tough nature of what they’ve achieved time and time again. Landing a rocket is really, really hard. As Wait But Why puts it, what SpaceX has now achieved five times is like “firing a pencil over the top of a skyscraper and trying to land it on a shoebox on the ground – on a windy day.”

READ NEXT: How much does a bottle of water cost on board the ISS?

In any case, the purpose of this launch was a resupply run on NASA’s behalf for the International Space Station, and it’s due to arrive in two days’ time. The contents will help to support more than 250 scientific experiments due to take place aboard the ISS, and contains a number of interesting articles, most intriguingly of all a DNA sequencer.spacex_launch_iss_supply_run

Astronaut DNA is usually sequenced back on Earth, which takes months, so being able to do so from the comfort of their own space station is an interesting development. The custom-built

Biomolecule Sequencer is designed to demonstrate that “DNA sequencing is feasible in an orbiting spacecraft,” and will identify microbes, diagnose diseases and help to understand crew member health. It could also “potentially help detect DNA-based life elsewhere in the solar system,” according to NASA, but let’s just get it to the ISS first.  

That’s not all that’s on board. As CNET points out, astronauts will also sign for a Phase Change Heat Exchanger and three-dimensional solar cell. That should keep them busy until the next resupply mission next month.

Images: SpaceX and NASA used under Creative Commons

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