The first floor that will separate from the rest of the rocket two minutes after launch will return to the atmosphere to come down gently not far from the firing point, a tricky maneuver SpaceX has already managed 19 times either on the ground or on a floating platform. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket first-stage booster later approached Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
"That marks the second successful visit to and from space for this particular booster", said a SpaceX commentator on the webcast.
The ship, which carries 2.1 tons of food and equipment for 250 scientific experiments, is scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Sunday.
SpaceX successfully completed its 13th cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this afternoon. SpaceX has worked to rebuild and upgrade the launchpad throughout 2017, and during a call with reporters earlier this week, John Muratore, SpaceX's SLC-40 director, said the refurbished pad now has a much longer operational lifetime of at least 10 to 20 years.
Friday also marked the fourth time SpaceX is re-flying a used booster for one of its clients.
NASA's ISS program manager Kirk Shireman said rocket experts from around the agency had reviewed safety for the mission, and that re-used components were seen as no more unsafe than new ones. It is the 13th of up to 20 missions to the space station that SpaceX will fly for the USA space agency NASA under a multi-year commercial resupply services contract.
SpaceX's Dragon cargo vehicle is secured to the International Space Station, delivering over 4,800 pounds of science and supplies to crew.
Dragon will remain moored at the ISS for about a month.