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Used Dragon Cargo Spacecraft Will Fly Again

With the exception of the Space Shuttles (which required $100M's of maintenance), real-life space craft are single-use vehicles. SpaceX is going to relaunch one of its Dragon cargo spacecraft next month.

Now, the company is set to try to recover another key component of its space hardware—a Dragon cargo spacecraft. The launch window for the supply mission opens on Thursday, June 1, at 5:55pm ET (10:55pm BST).

This particular Dragon spacecraft was sent to the International Space Station in September 2014, and it delivered nearly 2.5 tons of cargo to the orbiting laboratory. The Dragon returned to Earth about a month later, splashing down into the ocean. It is not clear how much processing SpaceX has had to undertake to ready the spacecraft for its second flight to the station, nor has the company released a cost estimate. It also had to manufacture a new "trunk," the unpressurized rear section of the vehicle, and solar panels.

Most science fiction spacecraft are multiple-use vehicles. But, in his 1941 classic Methuselah's Children, Robert Heinlein brings up a situation in which a used spacecraft - taken from a lunar used spacecraft lot - is reused, landing back on Earth and then taking off again:

Entering the stratosphere and circling two-thirds of the globe took no longer than he had estimated. He used part of the hour's leeway he had allowed himself by being very stingy in his maneuvers in order to spare the worn, obsolescent injection meters. Then he was down in the troposphere and making his approach, with skin temperatures high but not dangerously so...

Somewhere a pattern controlman was shouting at him; he switched it off and gave all his attention to his approach radar and the ghostly images in the infra-red rectifier while comparing what they told him with his inertial tracker...

Then the thought was cut short by a squeal from his board; the ship had picked up the pilot beam.

He wheeled her in, cut his last jet as she scraped, and slapped a series of switches; the great cargo ports rumbled open and rain beat in...

And then the take-off.

Two cargo ports were already closed; stragglers were moving through the other two. Barstow hurried the last of them inside with curses and followed them, slammed pell-mell to the control room. "Raise ship!" he shouted to Lazarus. "Fast!" "What's all the shoutin' fer?" asked Lazarus, but he was already closing and sealing the ports. He tripped the acceleration screamer, waited a scant ten seconds... and gave her power. "Well," he said conversationally six minutes later, "I hope everybody was lying down. If not, we've got some broken bones on our hands...

LAZARUS HAD his hands full to jockey the Chili into just the right position against the side of the New Frontiers; the overstrained meters made the smaller craft skittish as a young horse. But he did it. The magnetic anchors clanged home; the gas-tight seals slapped into place; and their ears popped as the pressure in the Chili adjusted to that in the giant ship.

Via Arstechnica; thanks to Jonathan Jeckell and Winchell Chung for retweeting this item.

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