SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket in the CRS-8 mission (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in its CRS-8 (Cargo Resupply Service) mission, also referred to as SPX-8. After about twelve minutes it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage and went en route. This is the 8th of 12 missions that include sending the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station with various cargoes and then return to Earth, again with various cargoes.

The Jason-3 satellite right after blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)

It was morning in California when the Jason-3 satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg U.S. Air Force Base. After nearly an hour it separated from the rocket’s upper stage and started deploying its solar panels. It will operate from a low Earth orbit of polar type, which means that it will pass over the poles, with an altitude between 1,328 and 1,380 kilometers (825 to 860 miles).

Artistic concept of the Dream Chaser Cargo System docked with the International Space Station (Image courtesy Sierra Nevada Corporation. All rights reserved)

NASA announced the companies selected for the new contracts for cargo transport to the International Space Station. This is the second selection so the agency calls them CRS-2 (Commercial Resupply Services 2) and concern the transport of supplies as well as the disposal of waste or otherwise of what is no longer needed and the transport of cargo from the Station to return it to NASA. This time the agency selected three companies reneweing the contracts with SpaceX and Orbital ATK and also selecting Sierra Nevada Corporation.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasting off with 11 ORBCOMM satellites (Image courtesy SpaceX. All rights reserved)

The new version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral in its return to the activity after the June 28, 2015 mishap. It was carrying 11 satellites ORBCOMM, part of the OG2 mission. A secondary objective was the new controlled landing test of the rocket’s first stage, which for the first time had to reach the mainland. The mission was a triumph with the success in the landing and the satellites deployment.

Yesterday, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced the preliminary results ove the investigation on the mishap to the Falcon 9 rocket which led to its destruction just over two minutes after its June 28, 2015 launch. The culprit appears to be a component of the hardware rocket, one of the support struts of the rocket’s second stage’s liquid oxygen tank that handled a pressure much lower than that it was certified for.