However, as soon as this crucial part was phased out, Falcon's first stage (most expensive portion of the rocket) that was supposed to navigate itself back to the earth malfunctioned.
He also tweeted imagery from a camera onboard the booster as it made its way down.
The Dragon spacecraft that will support the CRS-16 mission previously supported the CRS-10 mission in February 2017.
There was an initial mishap on takeoff as the SpaceX booster missed its landing zone on the ground, ending up in the sea instead.
Minutes later, the rocket's first stage performed a so-called boost back maneuver and landed on an unmanned ship in the Pacific.
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For the first time in its history, was unable to land the reusable Falcon 9 stage.
'Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. It marked the first time the same booster flew three separate missions. After that is an Iridium launch in January and he anticipates that whatever caused the problem today will be identified and remedied by then.
"Plan is to dry them out and launch again", Musk tweeted. It could be that deployment of the landing legs stabilized the vehicle, but he said it needs to be investigated in detail.
A SpaceX commentator called it a "bummer", but noted it was secondary to the main mission of getting the Dragon capsule to orbit. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for Nasa under the agency's Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. The reason is the mold, which is found in food bars.
Among the new experiments sent to the space station are the growth of ordered crystals of antioxidant proteins in microgravity that can protect the body from the effects of radiation and some harmful chemicals, and a mice study to understand the physiology of aging and the role it plays on the progression of disease in humans. It's scheduled to arrive Saturday morning. It is joining five other "visiting vehicles" now docked there: two Soyuz crew spacecraft, two Russian Progress cargo spacecraft, and a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft. Twenty years ago this week, Cabana commanded the shuttle mission that carried up the first USA part of the space station.