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SpaceX ferries supplies to orbiting station in reused capsule

[SAN FRANCISCO] Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp took another step in its push to drive down space-flight costs, launching a resupply mission to the International Space Station using a pre-flown capsule.

The Dragon capsule, which is carrying almost 2,720kg of supplies and payloads to the orbiting lab, was successfully launched at 5.07 pm Saturday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Dragon spacecraft, propelled by a Falcon 9 rocket, had previously supplied the space station in September 2014.

The mission brings Musk one step closer to his goal of recovering, refurbishing and reusing pre-flown spacecraft. Once derided as a crazy idea, reusability is now seen as the key to affordable space missions - and eventually, Musk hopes, the human colonization of Mars.

"Dragon confirmed in good orbit," SpaceX said on Twitter 11 minutes after the launch.

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The capsule will arrive at the space station in three days, where crew members will use the station's 17.6-m robotic arm to reach out and capture it, the company said ahead of the launch. The launch had originally been planned for June 1 but was delayed due to lightning.

After take-off, the rocket's first stage arrived safely back on land, in the fifth such instance. The company reflew a previously used rocket for the first time in March.

Saturday's launch marked SpaceX's seventh completed mission of 2017 and its 11th operational cargo resupply mission to the space station. SpaceX has contracts with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration valued at US$4.2 billion. The Hawthorne, California-based company also has pacts for US military launches of satellites, a market estimated to be valued at about US$70 billion through 2030.