Postcard from... Cape Canaveral


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The Independent Online

A SpaceX cargo ship rocketed toward the International Space Station yesterday, carrying the first 3D printer for astronauts in orbit. In all, the unmanned Dragon capsule is delivering more than 2,300kgs (5,000 pounds) of space station supplies for Nasa.

Dragon should reach the space station tomorrow. It’s the latest in a number of station shipments for the California-based company SpaceX,

The space station was soaring over the South Pacific when the SpaceX Falcon 9 thundered into Florida’s pre-dawn sky. The weather was ideal for flying, unlike Saturday, when rain forced a delay. The rocket was visible for nearly three minutes as it sped out over the Atlantic.

Besides the launch, Nasa’s Maven spacecraft was on the verge of reaching Mars. The robotic explorer was scheduled to go into orbit around Mars early this morning.

The space station-bound 3D printer is sturdier than earthly models to withstand the stresses of launch, and meets Nasa’s strict safety standards. The space agency envisions astronauts one day cranking out spare parts as needed. For now, it’s a technology demonstrator, with another model to follow next year.

A $30m (£18.4m) device for measuring ocean winds is also flying up on Dragon, along with 20 mice and 30 fruit flies for biological research and metal samples for a golf club manufacturer looking to improve its products.

Much-needed spacesuit batteries are on board as well, along with the usual stash of food, clothes and electronic gear. AP