A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket zoomed into space Monday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center carrying a commercial resupply vessel toward the International Space Station.
With the equipment in the resupply vessel, scientists will conduct research looking into cosmic rays, the origin of Parkinson's disease, the utility of small satellites. The equipment on board also includes an experimental radiation-tolerant supercomputer.
Crammed with more than 6,400 pounds (2,900 kilograms) of supplies, the Dragon capsule riding atop the Falcon 9 rocket also carries computer and camera gear, components to maintain the station's life support system and medical equipment, and provisions for the station's six-person crew, including clothing, fresh food and ice cream.
The 213-foot-tall (65-meter) rocket blasted off from pad 39A at the Florida spaceport at 12:31:37 pm, maneuvered to align with the space station's orbit, and shot past scattered clouds before disappearing into the blue sky.
SpaceX was able to successfully land its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral shortly after liftoff, which is expected to become an important part of its effort to recycle rockets and reduce costs.
It marked the 14th successful booster landing for SpaceX and the sixth at the company's touchdown spot at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, only a few miles from its NASA-leased pad at Kennedy Space Center.
"It's right on the bull's-eye, and a very soft touchdown," said SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann.
Scientists will study the mice on board to gain insights into visual problems suffered in space by some male astronauts. They will study the pressure in the animals' eyes, as also the movement of fluid in their brains. According to Florida State University's Michael Delp, who is in charge of the experiment, 30 days for mice in space is comparable with three years for humans.
He added that the study might help explain the reason female astronauts did not suffer the vision problem, which could linger long after spaceflight.
The Dragon also carries an instrument to measure cosmic rays from the space station and the army has an imaging microsatellite on board for release this fall from the station.
The military wants to see how, the dormitory room refrigerator sized satellite, with low-cost, off-the-shelf cameras and telescopes, might support critical ground operations.