SpaceX launched a rocket loaded with supplies for the International Space Station on Star Wars Day.
Falcon 9, which Elon Musk reportedly named after the iconic Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
SpaceX continued to tout the Star Wars Day connection as the craft blasted off.
“Dragon is now officially on the way to the space station,” the SpaceX launch commentator announced once the capsule reached orbit and its solar wings unfurled. “Until next time, May the Fourth be with you.”
The Star Wars catchphrase is usually “may the force be with you”, with fans adapting it on May 4.
The rocket raced into the pre-dawn darkness, carrying a Dragon capsule with 2,500 kilograms of goods and is due to arrive at the orbiting lab Monday.
Its booster streaked to a smooth landing on a recovery ship just offshore.
The delivery is a few days late because of electrical power shortages which emerged first at the space station then at SpaceX’s rocket-landing platform in the Atlantic.
Both problems were quickly resolved with equipment replacements.
Minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed its brand new first-stage booster on the ocean platform roughly 16 kilometres off the coast, considerably closer than usual with the sonic booms easily heard at the launch site.
“That looked really, really cool in the night sky,” said Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice president.
He had left his launch control seat to run outside and watch.
SpaceX has been restocking the space station since 2012 and this latest cargo Dragon, the company’s 17th shipment, is carrying equipment and experiments for the six space station astronauts, including an instrument to monitor carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.
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