CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX launched Christmas gifts, presents and supplies to the International Space Station on Tuesday and received a gift in return: the company’s 100th successful rocket landing.
The pre-dawn liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center was barely visible in the fog and clouds, as the Falcon rocket hoisted a Dragon capsule loaded with more than 6,500 pounds of equipment for the seven astronauts of the station. Minutes later, the first-stage booster landed upright on an ocean platform, six years to the day since Elon Musk’s company achieved its first booster touchdown in 2015.
This particular booster was making its first flight. A few days ago, a SpaceX booster made its 11th flight.
“Reducing the cost of spaceflight is essential to continue to reuse these boosters more and more often. Hundred is a big milestone, so we’re excited about that,” SpaceX’s Sarah Walker, mission manager, said. “We’re also excited to see how few new boosters we have to produce over the years.”
Among the items due to arrive at the space station on Wednesday are Christmas gifts from astronaut families, as well as smoked fish and turkey, green beans and fruitcakes for a holiday treat. NASA space station program manager Joel Montalbano did not divulge anything else. “I’m not going to show up in front of Santa Claus to tell you what’s going to be sent,” he told reporters the day before the launch.
The delivery also includes a laundry detergent experiment. Station astronauts are currently throwing away their dirty clothes; Procter & Gamble Co. is developing a fully degradable detergent for eventual use at the station, on the moon and beyond.
SpaceX ends the year with 31 launches, the most ever for the company.