SpaceX will attempt to launch both a previously used orbital rocket and a spacecraft for the first time in a historic resupply mission to the International Space Station next week. CEO Elon Musk announced the news in a post on Instagram and shared photos of the missions in which the Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule were last flown.
The CRS-13 resupply mission was initially scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida on Friday (8 December).
However, it was pushed back to Tuesday due to "account pad readiness, requirements for science payloads, space station crew availability, and orbital mechanics."
Carrying about 4,800 pounds (2177kg) worth of supplies, experiments and research material, the preflown Dragon spacecraft will spend about a month docked at the ISS. It was previously launched in SpaceX's sixth cargo resupply mission to the space station in April 2015 and returned to Earth little over a month later.
In the upcoming mission, it will lift a space-junk tracker, a device that manufactures optical fiber and a sensor that measures the sun's energy output to space among other hardware.
After about a month after being attached to the space station, the Dragon will return to Earth on 13 January with results of earlier experiments, and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California.
The Falcon 9's first stage was previously launched in SpaceX's 11th resupply mission for Nasa in June 2017.
The historic attempt comes just months after SpaceX first relaunched a used Falcon 9 rocket booster into space in March – an accomplishment touted as a "revolution in spaceflight" and a "milestone in the history of space". Two months later, the space-transportation company launched its first refurbished Dragon cargo capsule to the ISS in June.
The move also falls in line with SpaceX goals of "full and rapid reusability" to slash launch and hardware prices, revolutionise the industry and open up an era of cheaper space access. The company aims to eventually cut its costs by about 30% with the reuse of its hardware.
The CRS-13 mission will mark the first time Nasa will use a previously flown rocket for a resupply mission.
SpaceX will once again attempt to land its Falcon 9 first stage shortly after liftoff on Tuesday at Landing Zone-1 at Cape Canaveral. So far, the company has successfully pulled off 19 such landings - now its signature move.