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SpaceX launches cargo craft with mighty mice

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from its Florida launch pad, sending a robotic Dragon cargo ship into space. (SpaceX via YouTube)

A fresh SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a recycled robotic Dragon cargo capsule today, carrying 5,700 pounds of supplies, satellites and science to the International Space Station.

In contrast with Dec. 4’s planned launch attempt, which was called off due to excessively high upper-level winds, today’s countdown proceeded smoothly to liftoff at 12:29 p.m. ET (9:29 a.m. PT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s first stage fell away as planned and flew itself back for touchdown on a drone ship stationed hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX went with an at-sea landing of the first stage today so that it could put the second stage through a long-duration thermal test.

The Dragon cargo craft, meanwhile, continued onward toward the space station for SpaceX’s 19th cargo resupply mission under a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA. It’s due to rendezvous on Dec. 8 and will be pulled in for a berthing using the station’s robotic arm.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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