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SpaceX launches Falcon 9 with crazy space harpoon to ISS

One of Elon Musk's Falcon 9 rockets launched a Dragon capsule for NASA Monday filled with wild space science, and even a new printer, to the space station.

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SpaceX on Monday launched a used first-stage rocket, topped by a used Dragon cargo capsule, for just the second time ever. The recycled Falcon 9 blasted off for the ISS under sunny skies from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The successful launch is the second in the span of just four days. CEO Elon Musk's rocket company launched another Falcon 9 on Friday to deploy 10 Iridium telecommunication satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 

Alexandra Able/CNET

Musk, a tech magnate who also runs electric car company Tesla, has audacious plans. He hopes to one day send SpaceX spacecraft carrying passengers to Mars, part of a colonization effort. He's also proposed using his heavy rockets to cut down on travel times right here on Earth. In February, SpaceX launched a Falcon Heavy rocket carrying a payload of Musk's own cherry red Tesla Roadster playing David Bowie's song Space Oddity.

In addition to replenishing the basics needed by the International Space Station crew, the Dragon launched at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday is carrying a wide array of science experiments, ranging from biological tests related to astronaut health to studies involving grass, probiotics, fruit flies and a crazy high-altitude lightning phenomenon including little-understood red sprites.

Something called Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) will mount on the exterior of the space station to allow for experiments to be directly exposed to the harshness of space. Also headed to orbit is a space harpoon to catch space junk with. Seriously. For more about some of the cool science leaving Earth today, watch the NASA video below.

The space station will also be getting a long-overdue new printer after 17 years, a custom HP OfficeJet. And the charming Robonaut, a humanoid robot that can handle tools, will be brought back to Earth for repairs and return to the ISS later.

Alexandra Able/CNET

The Falcon 9 that launched on Monday also flew the 12th resupply mission to the ISS in August. SpaceX had no plans to recover it, instead it basically sank itself in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Dragon capsule will take two days to get lined up just right with the International Space Station and is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Wednesday morning. 

You can watch the launch via the embedded video feed at the top of this story.

First published, April 2, 10:30 a.m. PT.
Update, April 2 at 1:45 p.m.: Adds that the launch went off successfully.

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