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SpaceX shipment of ants, avocados, robot heads for ISS

A recycled SpaceX Falcon rocket blasted off on Sunday. Photo: AP
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A SpaceX shipment of ants, avocados and a human-sized robotic arm has rocketed towards the International Space Station.

The delivery, which is due to arrive on Monday, is the company’s 23rd for NASA in just under a decade.

A recycled Falcon rocket on Sunday blasted into the pre-dawn sky from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre.

After hoisting the Dragon capsule, the first-stage booster landed upright on SpaceX’s newest ocean platform.

The Dragon is carrying more than two tonnes of supplies and experiments, and fresh food including avocados, lemons and even ice-cream for the space station’s seven astronauts.

The Girl Scouts are sending up ants, brine shrimp and plants as test subjects, while University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists are flying up seeds from mouse-ear cress, a small flowering weed used in genetic research.

Samples of concrete, solar cells and other materials also will be subjected to weightlessness.

A Japanese start-up company’s experimental robotic arm, meanwhile, will attempt to screw items together in its orbital debut and perform other mundane chores usually done by astronauts.

It was the second launch attempt; Saturday’s try was foiled by stormy weather.

NASA turned to SpaceX and other US companies to deliver cargo and crews to the space station, once the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

-AAP